Thomas’s book Proud, published last month, tells the full story of his struggle with his sexuality, which he kept from his now ex-wife Jemma and teammates through much of his career, and how several times he contemplated taking his own life before deciding to make his homosexuality public in 2009.
Biographies and autobiographies dominate the list, from which will be selected the 26th winner of the award, the most valuable and prestigious prize in sports literature.
Mike Tyson‘s no-holds-barred Undisputed Truth is among them, alongside Alone, the story of the tragically short life of John Curry, the figure skater who had 20 million Britons glued to their TV sets as he changed the perception of ice skating from marginal sport to high art, written by Bill Jones, author of The Ghost Runner, a wonderfully crafted book about the athlete John Tarrant, who became a sensation in the 1950s by gatecrashing races from which he was barred because expenses paid to him as a teenage boxer led to him being labelled as a ‘professional’ athlete.
Football life stories include Matt Dickinson’s Bobby Moore: The Man in Full and Stewart Taylor‘s Stuck in a Moment, the poignant story of Paul Vaessen, the former Arsenal striker who achieved fleeting fame on the back of one famous goal against Juventus in Turin but whose career was ended early by injury and who subsequently died as a drug addict.
Olympic gold-medallist Nicole Cooke, the first British cyclist to have been ranked World No.1, makes it with her autobiography The Breakaway, as does Paul Reese for The Three Degrees, the story of the West Bromwich Albion footballers Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendan Batson, who did so much to further the drive against racism in football.
The longlist in full (alphabetically by author’s surname):
The Breakaway: My Story, by Nicole Cooke (Simon & Schuster).
Bobby Moore: The Man in Full, by Matt Dickinson (Yellow Jersey Press).
An American Caddie in St. Andrews: Growing Up, Girls and Looping on the Old Course, by Oliver Horovitz (Elliott & Thompson).
Played in London: Charting the Heritage of a City at Play, by Simon Inglis (English Heritage).
Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry, by Bill Jones (Bloomsbury).
Run or Die: The Inspirational Memoir of the World's Greatest Ultra-Runner, by Kilian Jornet (Viking).
Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport, by Anna Krien (Yellow Jersey Press).
In Search of Duncan Ferguson: The Life and Crimes of a Footballing Enigma, by Alan Pattullo (Mainstream Publishing).
The Incredible Adventures of the Unstoppable Keeper, by Lutz Pfannenstiel (Vision Sports Publishing Ltd).
The Three Degrees: The Men Who Changed British Football Forever, by Paul Rees (Constable).
Floodlights and Touchlines: A History of Spectator Sport, by Rob Steen (Bloomsbury).
Stuck in a Moment: The Ballad of Paul Vaessen, by Stewart Taylor (GCR Books).
Proud: My Autobiography, by Gareth Thomas (Ebury Press).
Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography, by Mike Tyson with Larry Sloman (HarperSport).
Love Game: A History of Tennis, from Victorian Pastime to Global Phenomenon, by Elizabeth Wilson (Serpent’s Tail)
William Hill spokesman and co-founder of the Award, Graham Sharpe, said: “There is something for everyone on this year’s longlist; from the inspirational, surprising and sometimes troubling stories behind some of our best-known sporting stars, to masterful social history and the more unusual subjects of ultra-running and golf-caddying. This diverse range of topics is testament to the fact that sports-writing is in rude health.
“I am also very pleased to see that three of the 15 longlisted titles are written by women – a first for a William Hill longlist – though I’d like to see an even greater share of voice for female writers in the future”.
The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize. As well as a £25,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet, a hand-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races.
The judging panel for this year’s Award consists of: retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the judging panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the Award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.
The shortlist will be announced on October 24 October. The winner will be announced at an afternoon reception at BAFTA, in central London, on Thursday November 27.