The Game of Our Lives beats strong field to take William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2015 prize for David Goldblatt

David Goldblatt mimicked the reaction of Sir Alex Ferguson to winning the Champions League with Manchester United in 1999 after his book was named William Hill Sports Book of the Year for 2015.

On receiving the award at a ceremony at BAFTA in central London, Goldblatt said: “In the words of Sir Alex Ferguson: sports writing, bloody hell.”

Goldblatt’s The Game of Our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football took the £27,000 prize ahead of a strong field from which twice past winner Donald McRae's A Man's World and Andy Bull's Speed Kings were both highly commended.

The Game of Our Lives examines how football affects urban identities from the biggest cities to the smallest towns, how a successful team can spark economic regeneration and describes how a sport that seemed to reflect urban decline only a few decades ago is now an economic phenomenon that has boomed even in times of wider recession.

Chairman of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year judging panel, John Gaustad, predicted that The Game of Our Lives would become "required reading for anyone studying the history of late 20th and early 21st Century Britain.”

“This is a serious, insightful yet compellingly readable book on a subject that affects the lives of everyone in the country, be they football fans or not," he said. "Goldblatt looks at football through the prism of its economic, cultural and reputational effect on the UK, and pulls no punches in his conclusions."

Goldblatt’s previous books include the acclaimed The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football and Futeball Nation, a footballing history of Brazil.

In taking the prize, Goldblatt prevailed over a powerful and varied shortlist, including a potential third win from Donald McRae for his biography of boxing legend Emile Griffith, A Man’s World. The shortlist also included in Andy Bull's Speed Kings the first book on bobsleigh to be submitted for the prize.
David Goldbatt proudly shows off his trophy

Also among a six-strong shortlist were Simon Lister’s study of the 1974 West Indies cricket team, Fire in Babylon, Martin Fletcher’s deeply moving Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire and Michael Calvin’s investigation into the secrets of surviving the brutal and unpredictable world of the football manager, Living on the Volcano.

William Hill spokesman and co-founder of the Award, Graham Sharpe, said of The Game of our Lives: "It is an exceptional winner – it has to be, up against this incredible shortlist.”

As well as a £27,000 cheque, Goldblatt was awarded a William Hill bet worth £2,500 and an exclusive day at the races.

Making up judging panel alongside Sportspages bookshop founder Gaustad were retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd.

The Game of Our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football by David Goldblatt is published by Viking.

Goldblatt is a sports writer, broadcaster and sociologist. His book The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football was described as the "seminal football history" by Simon Kuper.

He has written for The Guardian, The Observer, The Times Literary Supplement, the Financial Times and The Independent on Sunday, as well as magazines New Statesman, New Left Review and Prospect.  Born in Watford, he currently lives in Bristol.

The Game of Our Lives is also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

Read also:

William Hill Sports Book of the Year shortlist announced

The full longlist



Counting down to William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2015 Announcement

The winner of the 2015 William Hill Sports Book of the Year will be revealed at a lunchtime ceremony at BAFTA in London on Thursday.  Here is a reminder of the six titles shortlisted for the award.

Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World, by Andy Bull (Bantam Press)

The early days of bobsleigh were dominated by rich and adventurous young men drawn to the thrill of hurtling along sheer ice tracks at breakneck speeds, typified by the disparate group that came together to win the four-man bob titles for America at the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1932.  Andy Bull traces their back stories in a tale of loose living, risk taking and hell raising from a golden age of decadence.

"Hollywood stars, politicians, royalty, gangsters and other denizens of the demi-monde – hedonists and hucksters, harlots and heroes – flicker through a well-paced narrative," wrote Richard Williams in The Guardian, commenting that although none of the quartet survived to talk to Bull, "such is the diligence of his research and his sensitivity to the story in all its many dimensions that few could feel that he has not done justice to their world."

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager, by Michael Calvin (Century)

Award-winning author and journalist Michael Calvin interviewed more than 20 football managers from the Premier League to League Two in an attempt to discover just what it is like to attempt survival in one of the most pressurised and insecure professions in any walk of life, extracting some extraordinary and sometimes harrowing insights into the life of his interviewees, one of whom underwent electric shock treatment in a desperate bid to overcome stress-induced depression.

"Calvin is an exquisite writer but he is also a “proper” journalist," wrote Janine Self at www.sportsjournalists.co.uk. "If a manager wants to keep talking, thus revealing far more than he perhaps intended, Calvin sits back and allow the dictaphone to take the strain then lets the quotes run."

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire, by Martin Fletcher (Bloomsbury)

Bradford fire survivor Martin Fletcher tells the gripping, heart-rending story of unthinkable loss following a spring afternoon at a football match, of how 56 people died, and of the truths he unearthed as an adult looking into the circumstances of a tragedy that claimed the lives of his father and brother, his grandfather and an uncle. This is the story – 30 years on – of the disaster football has never properly acknowledged.

Ian Herbert wrote in The Independent: “Above all else, it is a beautifully observed and incredibly detailed memoir of a son's relationship with the father he lost at the age of 12."

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

The Game of Our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football, by David Goldblatt (Viking)

David Goldblatt takes a look at the ways in which British football reflects the changes and fortunes of society. He writes of how English football, once a dying working-class game that reflected the nation's declining fortunes, became the richest, most popular form of entertainment in the country.

"A refreshingly candid view of the English game as the intersection of the scepter'd island's two greatest traditions: tribalism and your puffy-coated-spiv’s fascination with money." --Timothy Spangler for www.forbes.com.

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

Fire in Babylon: How the West Indies Cricket Team Brought a People to its Feet, by Simon Lister (Yellow Jersey)

Simon Lister explores how the 1970s West Indies cricket team became one of the most successful in history, and how this success, in a sport traditionally associated with British colonialism and racial suppression, fostered a sense of pride among in the independent Caribbean islands and in the West Indian community in Britain.

Nicholas Hogg wrote at www.espncricinfo.com -- "By entwining a social history of the West Indies, especially the post-war exodus to Britain, with the cricketing journey of the Caribbean, Lister has produced an authoritative and at times thrilling text."

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

A Man's World: The Double Life of Emile Griffith, by Donald McRae (Simon & Schuster)

In this biography of the five-time world champion boxer, Emile Griffith, Donald McRae --twice a previous winner of this award -- writes of the struggles Griffith faced as a gay, black man in an era of deep-seated racism and homophobia. Griffith, taunted at the weigh-in before one title fight, beat up his opponent so severely he subsequently died.  Later, Griffith would speak of the irony of being forgiven for killing a man but persecuted for loving one.

"McRae's work always mixes top-notch research, equally key insights and stellar writing. This book is no different." -- Thomas Gerbasi for www.boxingscene.com

Also available from Waterstones and WHSmith

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, now in its 27th year, is the world's longest established and most valuable sportswriting prize. As well as a £27,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet and a day at the races.

Making up this year's judging panel are: retired player and former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ 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.


Authors on the platform: star line-up at London Festival of Sports Writing 2015

A host of authors will be discussing their books at the London Festival of Sports Writing, which takes place at Lord's Cricket Ground from Thursday (November 12) to Sunday this week.

This is the third year of this new festival dedicated to the best in sports writing, jointly hosted by David Luxton Associates and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) with the support of media partner London Evening Standard.

The four-day celebration kicks off on Thursday with cricket, football and tennis on the agenda for the opening day.

Among the authors appearing will be Richard Tomlinson, author of Amazing Grace: The Man Who was W.G., William Skidelsky, author of Federer and Me: A Story of Obsession.
Tomlinson will sit down with Lawrence Booth, editor of Wisden, and Jonathan Rice, who compiled Wisden on Grace, to discuss the legacy of the great W. G. on the 100th anniversary of his death in the company of Richard Whitehead, editor of The Times on the Ashes.

Skidelsky will talk about his enthusiasm for tennis giant Roger Federer with Kevin Mitchell, tennis and boxing correspondent of the Guardian and Observer and author of Break Point: The Inside Story of Modern Tennis, with Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph chairing the debate.

Later in the afternoon, former England cricketer Steve James (author of The Art of Centuries) and Simon Hughes, ex-player turned TV analyst whose latest book is entitled Who Wants to be a Batsman?, sit down with Times cricket correspondent and former Test captain Mike Atherton to talk about what it takes to make hundreds in first-class cricket.

The focus then turns to football as the Evening Standard's Patrick Barclay joins veteran award-winning journalist James Lawton in a debate with its focus on the great Manchester City team assembled by Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison in the late 1960s.  They are joined on stage by two members of that team, defender Tommy Booth and goalkeeper Joe Corrigan, both of whom feature in Lawton's book Forever Boys: The Days of Citzens and Heroes.  Barclay, a writer with the distinction of having been football correspondent for three of England's quality newspapers -- The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and The Times -- as well as The Observer among the quality Sundays, is the author among other books of Mourinho: Further Anatomy of a Winner.

Thursday's programme concludes with Observer journalist Amy Lawrence hosting a discussion about Germany's return to dominance on the world stage with Raphael Honigstein, author of Das Reboot: How German Football Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World, and Ronald Reng, whose latest book is Matchdays: The Hidden Story of the Bundesliga.  Lawrence herself wrote a fine book about Arsenal entitled Invincible: Inside Arsenal's Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season.

On Friday's Agenda

Friday's order of play begins with Phil Tufnell, his autobiography Where Am I? fresh of the presses, in conversation with cricket enthusiast and journalist Emma John, deputy editor of the Observer magazine, about his escapades on and off the field.
Next is more humour with comedian and author David Baddiel on stage with John O'Farrell, author and comedy scriptwriter, discussing a broad sweep of topics including football, fiction, fantasy and FIFA, all of which feature in O'Farrell's new comic novel, There's Only Two David Beckhams.

After that comes a switch to the motor racing track with former Formula One driver Mark Webber, author of Aussie Grit: My Formula One Journey, joins Maurice Hamilton, award winning journalist and author of the recently published Grand Prix Circuits, in a discussion chaired by The Guardian’s Richard Williams, talking about Formula One’s most intriguing battles and circuits.

Friday's programme concludes with Spanish author, journalist and broadcaster Guillem Balague talking about the subject of his latest book, Cristiano Ronaldo, along with performance psychologist Bill Beswick, whose new book One Goal: The Mindset of Winning Soccer Teams is out this month, and journalist Sid Lowe, whose bestselling book Fear and Loathing in La Liga was shortlisted for the Football Book of the Year at the 2014 British Sports Book Awards.

Saturday's highlights

Authors in the spotlight on Saturday's programme include Michael Calvin (author of The Nowhere Men & Living on the Volcano), Patrick Barclay (author of Mourinho: Anatomy of a Winner and The Life and Times of Herbert Chapman) and John Cross (author of Arsene Wenger: The Inside Story of Arsenal Under Wenger), as they join award-winning journalist Henry Winter to try to provide some answers on how to survive as a football manager.

Also cyclist and reformed doper David Millar reveals what life is really like in the peloton with journalist Ned Boulting.  Millar has recently followed up his successful biography Racing Through the Dark with The Racer, a blow by blow account of his final season as a professional.  Ned Boulting is the author of a number of cycling books including On the Road Bike: The Search For a Nation's Cycling Soul.
Earlier in the day, there are discussion events about the paucity of female sports journalists working in the British media and a live edition of the Tottenham Hotspur podcast The Spurs Show, featuring presenter Mike Leigh, club legends Gary Mabbutt and Terry Gibson, sportswriter and Spurs fan Julie Welch, and The Guardian's parliamentary sketch writer and ESPN Spurs blogger John Crace.

Also former rugby stars Ben Cohen and Michael Lynagh will join journalist and author Brendan Gallagher in looking back at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The Sunday menu

On Sunday's agenda is The Cycling Podcast Live, involving the three hosts of the popular show -- Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe -- in a review of the 2015 cycling season, after which Moore switches his attention to athletics.

After their sell-out appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival, Moore, author of The Bolt Supremacy: Inside Jamaica's Sprint Factory, discusses with Ed Caesar, author of Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon,  what it takes to become a world sprint and marathon champion, with Sky Sports expert Orla Chennaoui in the chair.

Later, cricket journalist Scyld Berry, cricket correspondent of the Telegraph titles and author of Cricket: The Game of Life meets former England captain Mike Brearley, author of the seminal Art of Captaincy, and Ed Smith, the former player turned author and broadcaster, to explore the nature, meaning, and significance of cricket throughout the world and how the sport has remained so popular.

For more information and how to obtain tickets, visit www.londonsportswritingfestival.com.