20150619

Gareth Thomas autobiography Proud is Sports Book of the Year after winning public vote

Proud, the book in which Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas describes the anguish that drove him close to suicide before he decided to end years of deceit and admit to his homosexuality, has been voted Sports Book of the Year for 2015 in an online poll.

Published by Ebury, Proud won Best Autobiography at the Cross British Sports Book Awards 2015 before all 10 category winners at the annual prizegiving event were thrown open to readers to name their choice for the overall top sports title of the last 12 months.

Written with journalist and sportswriter Michael Calvin, who also won last year’s overall prize for his book, The Nowhere Men, Proud has been described as a breathtakingly moving and inspirational story.

Thomas for many years seemed to epitomise the macho culture of rugby. Known by his nickname 'Alfie', Thomas had cultivated the image of hard-drinking hellraiser to which rugby players were almost expected to conform.  Ironically, the publicity accompanying his first biography, entitled Alfie described how he had reached the top of his profession 'simply by being himself'.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Thomas was leading a double life.  Aware of being gay from his late teens, he kept it a secret for years, even marrying Jemma, the pretty girl from a neighbouring village whose mail he would deliver when he worked as a postman. But after growing weary of the lies and cover-ups, of the moments of intolerable despair, he came out.  His bravery in doing so has led to Thomas being contacted for advice and support by many people within sport and beyond who have found themselves grappling with similar conflicts in their personal lives.

Thomas, who dedicated the award to the memory of his friend, Danny Jones, the rugby league player who died suddenly after collapsing on the field last month, said: “I’m proud, in so many ways, to win this award. The book means so much to me because I have discovered that it means so much to others.”

Co-author Calvin described winning the online vote as "a huge honour."

“It is uniquely important since it involves recognition from not just an eminent panel of judges, but also the support of our readers," he said. "Being named as Sports Book of the Year at the Cross British Sports Book Awards is a huge honour for us.

"From a personal point of view, winning for the second successive year is pretty humbling. But Gareth deserves greater credit for having the moral courage to tell his story with such fearlessness and emotional intelligence. We laughed and we cried in writing the book, and will probably do the same when we meet up to celebrate this win. Thanks to everyone involved.”

Buy Proud: My Autobiography, by Gareth Thomas from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.

The other category winners announced at the awards ceremony at Lord’s earlier this month were:

Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry, by Bill Jones, (Outstanding Sports Writing)

Bobby Moore: The Man in Full, by Matt Dickinson (Biography of the Year)

Wounded Tiger: A History of Cricket in Pakistan, by Peter Oborne, (Cricket Book of the Year)

Thirty-One Nil: On the Road With Football's Outsiders, by James Montague (Football Book of the Year)

Beyond the Horizon: Extreme Adventures at the Edge of the World, by Richard Parks with Michael Aylwin (Rugby Book of the Year)

Cheltenham et AL: The Best of Alastair Down, by Alastair Down, (Horse Racing Book of the Year).

The Race Against the Stasi: The Incredible Story of Dieter Wiedemann, the Iron Curtain and the Greatest Cycling Race on Earth, by Herbie Sykes (Cycling Book of the Year)

Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport, by Anna Krien (New Writer of the Year)

The Age of Innocence: Football in the 1970s , edited by Reuel Golden (Illustrated Book of the Year)

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20150604

Gareth Thomas's Proud and Bobby Moore biography head the line-up of winners at the 2015 Cross British Sports Book Awards


  • Bobby Moore: The Man in Full is Biography of the Year

  • Thirty-One Nil is best Football Book

  • Cricket Book award goes to Wounded Tiger

  • Gareth Thomas's Proud is Autobiography of the Year



Gareth Thomas, Matt Dickinson, James Montague, Richard Parks, Peter Oborne, Alastair Down, Herbie Sykes, Bill Jones and Anna Krien were recognised for their outstanding contributions to sports literature at the 2015 British Sports Book Awards, sponsored by pen makers Cross.

They were the headline winners at a ceremony hosted by broadcaster and former cricketer Jonathan Agnew at Lord's cricket ground in London.

Gareth Thomas, the former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain who played both Rugby Union and Rugby League in a glittering career, won the Autobiography of the Year prize for Proud (Ebury Press), written with the help of journalist and author Michael Calvin, which tells the story of how Thomas found the courage to admit to being gay in the macho world of rugby.

Thomas dedicated the award to Danny Jones, the Keighley Cougars rugby league player who last month died from cardiac arrest triggered by an undetected heart condition.

Available from: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith

Co-writer Calvin was himself a winner in 2014 with The Nowhere Men, his study of football's vast army of talent scouts, which was named as Football Book of the Year and won the public vote for overall Sports Book of the Year.

Publishers Yellow Jersey and Bloomsbury both scored two wins each.

The 2015 category winners all now go forward to a public online vote to determine the 2015 Cross Sports Book of the Year.  More details...

Football Book of the Year this time is Thirty-One Nil (Bloomsbury), written by James Montague, a freelance sports writer who set out to discover what the World Cup means in some of the world's most remote football outposts, in the nations whose quest for a place in the finals begins long before the major players have even thought about their route to the showcase event.  The title commemorates the record scoreline in a World Cup qualification match, when Australia beat American Samoa 31-0 in April 2001.

Available from: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith

Montague beat a strong field that included Bobby Moore: The Man in Full (Yellow Jersey), which instead won Biography of the Year for Matt Dickinson, chief sports writer at The Times.

Dickinson's portrait of the 1966 World Cup winning captain was notable not only for the depth of research but for its lack of sentimentality, delving behind the golden boy image to discover the true identity of one of football's greatest icons, not with any malevolent intent but simply to find the real person behind the caricature.

Available from: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith

Richard Parks, another former Wales rugby player, won Rugby Book of the Year for Beyond the Horizon: Extreme Adventures at the Edge of the World (Sphere), in which Parks tells the story of how he moved on when injury ended his career prematurely to take on extreme challenges such as climbing the highest mountain in every continent and visiting both the North and South Poles, all in the space of seven months.

Available from: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith

Peter Oborne's expansive Wounded Tiger: The History of Cricket in Pakistan (Simon & Schuster) won the Cricket Book of the Year award, turning the tables on Dan Waddell's Field of Shadows, the story of an English cricket tour of Nazi Germany, by which it was pipped for the Cricket Society-MCC Book of the Year.

Available from: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith


Alastair Down, the horse racing writer and bon viveur, won the Horse Racing Book of the Year for Cheltenham Et Al (Racing Post Books), a collection of his witty and colourful journalism for the Racing Post.


Available from: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith

Cycling Book of the Year went to The Race Against the Stasi (Aurum Press), in which journalist and author Herbie Sykes tells the incredible story of Dieter Wiedemann, the East German cyclist and a poster boy for the athletic supremacists of the communist Eastern Bloc and the Peace Race, the cycling stage event dubbed the Tour de France of the East.  Wiedeman, though, abhorred his country's ideology, fell in love with a girl from the other side of the Berlin Wall and, in defiance of the Stasi secret police who sought to control his life, defected to the West.

Available from: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith

Bill Jones, the writer and television producer who was Best New Writer in 2012 for The Ghost Runner, won the Outstanding Sports Writing award for Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry (Bloomsbury), which explores the troubled life and early death of the former Olympic figure skating champion.

Available from: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith

Anna Krien took the Best New Writer award this time for Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport (Yellow Jersey) which began as the reporting of a rape case involving a young Australian rules football player and developed as an eye-opening expose of a culture of abuse towards women in Australian sports.  Night Games was the winner of the 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.

Available from: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith

Other awards went to Reuel Golden as editor of The Age of Innocence: Football in the 1970s (Taschen), a photographic history that won Illustrated Book of the Year, to Elizabeth Allen (Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Orion) and Jane Beaton (Kew Publicity), who co-ordinated the Publicity Campaign behind Roy Keane's The Second Half, and to Waterstones as Retailer of the Year.

Sir Michael Parkinson, the journalist and broadcaster, received a special award for his Outstanding Contribution to Sports Writing.

Each of the individual category winners will be entered into an online public vote to determine the overall Cross British Sports Book of the Year.

The winners:

Autobiography Proud: My Autobiography (Ebury Press), by Gareth Thomas with Michael Calvin.

Biography Bobby Moore: The Man in Full (Yellow Jersey), by Matt Dickinson.

Football Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football's Outsiders (Bloomsbury), by James Montague

Rugby Beyond the Horizon: Extreme Adventures at the Edge of the World (Sphere), by Richard Parks.

Cricket Wounded Tiger: The History of Cricket in Pakistan (Simon & Schuster), by Peter Oborne.

Horse Racing Cheltenham et AL: The Best of Alastair Down (Racing Post Books), by Alastair Down.

Cycling The Race Against the Stasi: The Incredible Story of Dieter Wiedemann, The Iron Curtain and The Greatest Cycling Race on Earth (Aurum Press), by Herbie Sykes.

Outstanding Writing Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry (Bloomsbury) by Bill Jones.

New Writer Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport (Yellow Jersey), by Anna Krien.

Illustrated The Age of Innocence. Football in the 1970s (Taschen), edited by Reuel Golden.

Publicity Campaign Elizabeth Allen (Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Orion) and Jane Beaton (Kew Publicity) for Roy Keane: The Second Half (W & N), by Roy Keane and Roddy Doyle.

Retailer of the Year Waterstones

Outstanding Contribution to Sports Writing Sir Michael Parkinson

More reading: The full shortlists for the Cross British Sports Book Awards

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