William Hill Sports Award founder Gaustad dies

William Hill Sports Award founder Gaustad dies

John Gaustad, co-founder of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and founder of Sportspages bookshop, has died.

Gaustad opened specialist bookshop Sportspages on Caxton Walk, London, in 1985, and a second branch in Manchester in 1992.

After 18 years at the helm of the Sportspages bookshop, Gaustad stepped down as m.d. in 2003 as the company was bought out by a mail order bookseller. Two years later, the shop went into administration and closed.

Journalist Steven Downes said in a tribute to Gaustad: “In that pre-internet, pre-Amazon age, when journalists could not resort to Google or Wiki, and sports fans depended upon and devoured reference works such as Wisden, or what was then the Rothmans football annual, or the international athletics annual, Gaustad’s shop was unique, the first of its kind devoted to sport.”

In 1989, Gaustad and head of PR at William Hill, Graham Sharpe, launched the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. 

“I had an idea and a budget, and John had an idea and a venue, and we managed to bring it all together," Sharpe said. "John’s death is a personal blow for me, it’s an absolute tragedy. He was a truly significant figure in the world of sports publishing.”

Earlier this year, Gaustad announced his retirement as chair of the award judges after 28 years in the role.

Downes added: "It is another measure of the inspiration of John Gaustad that, by the time he stood down as chair, among the titles on the awards’ shortlist was one book which had managed to sell more than 1m copies worldwide. And for that, all sports writers, and sports readers, owe a debt of gratitude to John Gaustad."