Anna Krien has become the second woman to win the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award in its 26-year history, more than a decade after Lauren Hillenbrand won the prize.
Krien was awarded the £26,000 prize for her book Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport (Yellow Jersey Press).
Night Games follows the rape trial of an Australian Rules footballer and examines sporting culture and its attitudes towards sex and consent.
Matt Phillips, editorial director for Yellow Jersey Press, told The Bookseller that Night Games had been a difficult book to sell and publicise, because of its subject matter. "We were supported by Waterstones and Amazon, which is standard,” he said. “It has been a struggle sales wise. What’s been hardest is, publicity wise, trying to get people to cover it. Given how topical it is, it has been astonishing how hard it is to get people to pick it up.”
Phillips said some publications had said the book was “too political”.
The judging panel for the prize said Night Games was a “painstaking, intelligent, but above all, open-minded examination of an immensely complicated area”.
Journalist and judge Alyson Rudd said: “Night Games is not about English football but its relevance to the game is all too clear in the context of the conviction for rape of Ched Evans. Anna Krien seeks to understand why some sportsmen treat sex as a warped kind of sport in itself and women with little or no respect. Hopefully, if such men read her book they would be horrified at the repercussions of such behaviour.”
Krien told The Bookseller: “I always knew these issues resonated around the world. These cases have been around for a long time and the book has come when women are finding their voices and starting to fight back.”
The first woman to win the award was Hillenbrand for Seabiscuit (Fourth Estate) in 2001.
William Hill spokesman and co-founder of the award, Graham Sharpe, said: “It remains disappointing that on average, under 10% of the books submitted each year are written by females, and we hope that Anna's success will encourage many more women to write about sport.”
Krien was announced as the winner of the 2014 award by judge and broadcaster John Inverdale, live on BBC Radio 5 Live, at a ceremony at BAFTA in central London. As well as a £26,000 cheque, Krien was awarded a William Hill bet worth £2,500, a leather hand-bound copy of her book, and an exclusive day at the races.
The other shortlisted books were Gareth Thomas’s autobiography Proud (Ebury Press), which documents the challenges he faced keeping his sexuality a secret while playing rugby and was written with Michael Calvin; Alone by Bill Jones (Bloomsbury), the biography of iconic figure skater John Curry; Floodlights and Touchlines (Bloomsbury), a history of spectator sport, by academic Rob Steen; the autobiography of endurance runner Kilian Jornet, Run or Die (Viking); a sporting history of the capital, Played in London by Simon Inglis (English Heritage); and Bobby Moore (Yellow Jersey Press), a biography of the England footballing legend, by the Times chief sports writer Matt Dickinson.
Joining Inverdale and Rudd on the judging panel were retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster Danny Kelly; and journalist Hugh McIlvanney. Co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop, John Gaustad, was chairman of the judging panel.
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