A good bet

After 24 years you might imagine that there could be nothing new to bring to your attention about the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

But I'm happy to report that in this British sporting year of sporting years, which I'm sure will be reflected in next year's William Hill long- and shortlists, the award has indeed been breaking new ground itself.

For starters, this year's seven-strong shortlist boasts its first ever self-published title, together with its first ever squash and Iron Man triathlon titles—with James Willstrop's Shot And A Ghost qualifying on two of those three grounds, and Life without Limits by Chrissie Wellington.

We had a new record number of entries for this year's award—just short of 150 titles were put forward.

We welcomed a new judge to our ranks: Northampton Town defender and chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, Clarke Carlisle, who also, at a mere 33 becomes (and whisper it in the presence of the other judges, please) the youngest, and the first still active sportsperson to grace the panel—although tennis dynamo and have-a-go Times sports reporter Alyson Rudd might quibble on both counts.

Only one person has ever turned down the opportunity to be a judge for the WHSBOTY and that was because of pressure of work. I remain extremely grateful to all of those who, over the years, have served in the role, as I've always believed, from day one, that the award could only be as prestigious as the people who decide the identity of the winning book.

It is now a quarter of a century since the idea of the WHSBOTY was dreamed up and realised. It very quickly established itself. The Sportspages Bookshop where it was first presented is long gone although, thankfully, its proprietor and chairman of the judging panel since year one, John Gaustad, is very much still on the scene.

What is decidedly not new is our ongoing commitment to the award, the annual increase in prize money and the fact that we do not charge publishers either to enter their titles or to attend the presentation. Nor do we restrict publishers to a certain number of entries.

People are often intrigued that we do not open a betting market on which title will win our award, but when I explain that in the event that we did we would almost certainly be accused of endeavouring to influence the deliberations of the judging panel so that they did not opt for a book which had been particularly heavily backed, they take the point!

No book on betting or bookmaking has yet won our prize, but I have just started work on the official history of William Hill, the man and the company, and I may well decide to stand down from my role with the WHSBOTY when it is published (scheduled for 2014) in order to give the judges every opportunity to reward my loyalty to them and the award.

But I bet that won't happen . . .

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award will be announced by broadcaster John Inverdale at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly on 26th November.

Graham Sharpe is the spokesman and co-founder of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.