The field for this year's prize -- the 25th since the award was launched in 1989 -- looks much more open.
The longlist for the 2013 'Bookie Prize' sees football, tennis, rowing, horseracing, athletics, cycling and ping-pong among the sports represented, and features writers and performers from France, the Netherlands, America, Britain, Spain, Italy and Sweden.
After the success of Tyler Hamilton's The Secret Race, there is another take on the downfall of Lance Armstrong in the shape of Seven Deadly Sins, which recounts the long campaign waged by another of those who helped expose the truth about the seven-times Tour de France champion's systematic drug use, the Sunday Times journalist, David Walsh.
But it will take something special, one suspects, to persuade the judges not to choose their winner from among the six football titles that make up more than a third of the 17-strong longlist.
These include two-times Bookie winner Duncan Hamilton's portrait of George Best, Immortal, as well as biographies or autobiographies of three more recent greats of the beautiful game in Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Echoes of the 2012 London Olympics are sounded by Games supremo Sebastian Coe's autobiography, Running My Life, and rower Katherine Grainger's heartwarming Dreams Do Come True.
Cricket, which has provided five past winners, is represented by Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy, in which the cricket betting expert Ed Hawkins exposes the corruption and match-fixing that has blighted the game in recent years.
Brough Scott's brilliant portrayal of Henry Cecil deserves its place on the list, in which this year's left-field choice is without doubt Guido Mina di Sospiro's intriguingly-titled The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong, a discourse on table tennis and much, much more from a American-based Italian journalist.
The full longlist is as follows:
Thierry Henry: Lonely at the Top – A Biography, by Philippe Auclair (Macmillan). Buy
Stillness and Speed: My Story, by Dennis Bergkamp (Simon & Schuster). Buy
The Boys In The Boat: An Epic True-Life Journey to the Heart of Hitler’s Berlin, by Daniel James Brown (Macmillan). Buy
You Don’t Know Me, But… A Footballer’s Life, by Clarke Carlisle (Simon & Schuster). Buy
Running My Life: The Autobiography, by Seb Coe (Hodder & Stoughton). Buy
The Outsider: My Autobiography, by Jimmy Connors (Bantam Press). Buy
The Sports Gene: What Makes The Perfect Athlete, by David Epstein (Yellow Jersey Press). Buy
Dreams Do Come True: The Autobiography, by Katherine Grainger (Andre Deutsch). Buy
Immortal: The Approved Biography of George Best, by Duncan Hamilton (Century). Buy
Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld, by Ed Hawkins (Bloomsbury). Buy
I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic, by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Lagercrantz and Ruth Urbom (Penguin). Buy
Fear And Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona Vs Real Madrid, by Sid Lowe (Yellow Jersey Press). Buy
Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang, by Jamie Reid (Racing Post). Buy
Henry Cecil: Trainer of Genius, by Brough Scott (Racing Post). Buy
The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong, by Guido Mina di Sospiro (Yellow Jersey Press). Buy
Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, by David Walsh (Simon & Schuster). Buy
Domestique: The True Life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro, by Charly Wegelius and Tom Southam (Ebury Press). Buy
William Hill spokesman, and co-founder of the award, Graham Sharpe, said: “As befits the 25th anniversary of the world's undisputed finest award for sports books and their authors, I do not believe we have previously seen a year produce such an abundance of top quality titles. The judges face their toughest task yet in initially creating a shortlist then deciding on a winner - which will have beaten a classic field to be declared champion”.
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 £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: 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 25th October. The winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, at an evening reception at The Hospital Club in central London, on Wednesday 27th November.
The Sports Bookshelf will feature more about the contenders over the coming weeks.