By Ian Cole
Marc Aspland, chief sports photographer of The Times, was a double winner at the SJAâ€™s British Sports Journalism Awards last Monday, as the generosity of our sponsors and guests managed to raise nearly Â£4,200 for charities.
Aspland, pictured left, the winner of Sports News Picture of the Year, was the recipient of a Â£500 free bet, courtesy of the eventâ€™s joint sponsors Sky Bet, with any winnings going to charity.
With Tony Cascarino sitting close to Aspland on The Times table, a huddle ensued.
Cascarino, who won 88 Republic of Ireland caps in a career which took in clubs including Chelsea, Aston Villa, Millwall and Gillingham, had confessed his love of gambling in his autobiography, Full Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino.
His influence in Asplandâ€™s choice of bet was soon apparent: all four English clubs to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League at odds of 3-1.
The following night Chelsea and Liverpool got the bet off to the best possible start with victories over Juventus and Real Madrid. And after Manchester United eliminated Inter Milan, the charity punters’ fingernails were being chewed as Arsenal went to penalties against Roma in the Olympic Stadium.
When Romaâ€™s Max Tonetto blazed high and wide over Manuel Almuniaâ€™s crossbar, a message was dispatched to Cheltenham advising Dale Tempest, Sky Betâ€™s PR Director, to get ready to pay out.
Sky Bet generously returned Asplandâ€™s imaginary Â£500 stake along with Â£1,500 winnings and The Times snapper asked to split his haul between the British Heart Foundation and the Geoff Thomas Foundation, the fund set up by the former Crystal Palace and England midfielder to raise funds to increase the availability of drug therapies to treat leukaemia.
By coincidence, Asplandâ€™s winning entry in the Sports News Picture category also involved a Champions League penalty shoot-out. It was taken from behind Edwin Van der Sarâ€™s goal as Manchester United overcame Chelsea in last yearâ€™s final in Moscow (see left).
In addition to the Sky Bet charity bet, a collection among diners at the Awards also raised Â£2,241 for the Liam Ross Foundation.
Liam collapsed and died just before Christmas, aged 13. He was the nephew of Trevor Gardner, himself the nephew of Doug Gardner, who served as chairman and secretary in a 28-years stint on the SJA committee. The Liam Ross Foundation raises funds for Cardiac Risk in the Young.
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