BSBA AWARDS – A Night to Remember

June 3, 2014

I first attended the British Sports Book Awards dinner a few years ago when The Grudge won Rugby Book of the Year. This was an inside story of the famous England/Scotland Grand Slam Decider at Murrayfield in 1990. The emotion of that occasion will always live with me as a player in that match, England being denied the ultimate domestic Rugby Accolade in the face of Scottish Nationalistic fervour, not to mention a very useful side led by David Sole. Will Carling’s England, nose well and truly bloodied, rallied to win the next two Grand Slams. We learnt a lot that day.

My own book was 6 chapters written at the time, and I gained the inspiration to carry on. Imagine my surprise and delight to have City Centre shortlisted for 2014, and to attend the Awards dinner at the Home of Cricket, Lords. To be in the same company as Andrew Strauss and Kath Grainger at the event was a surreal prospect. My book was nestled quietly between that of David Beckham and Alex Ferguson , and alongside the legendary Jimmy Connors. I couldn’t quite believe it .

Apparently, Sporting Autobiographies and such like receive a mixed press. Many of them are ghosted , and you rarely see behind the career to understand the real person being featured. In the world of Sport, there is this imaginary line not to be crossed. It is tough to reveal something of yourself, to say what you really feel and be comfortable that complete strangers will get to read those revelations. It’s why many sporting personalities cannot or will not go there. I had, and I panicked many times and experienced moments when I couldn’t bring myself to publish. Yet here I was , it was done , and City Centre was open to scrutiny.

The evening was expertly mc’ed by the famous cricket commentator, Jonathan Agnew, with contributions from amongst others Andrew Strauss, Kath Grainger, Geoff Boycott and Judy Murray, mother of Andy, who had attended to pay tribute to Elena Baltacha. She tragically died of Cancer some weeks earlier and there is already a charity formed in her memory. It made us all realise how lucky we are and that you have to live for the moment, in life as in sport .

As the awards were made, my moment crept closer and the panel of Rugby Book judges took the stage to review their choices. I soon realised after their opening words that it was me they were talking about and sure enough I found myself up on the stage as the winner trying to construct an acceptance speech. It is difficult to explain my emotions and I would have probably planned a different speech if I had my time again! I felt both proud and humble to have been recognised and honoured as a sports writer.

I am sure that every category winner felt the same. The presence of so many great names from the world of sport helped create a quality evening which will live long in the memory for all of us. Of course , to win the Sports Book of the Year award will depend upon a public vote, and who knows what will determine the final outcome, and whether enough people will get a chance to read my own offering.

I would like to congratulate all those who helped make the Awards dinner so memorable. It will give every budding sports writer a real objective to aim towards. I cannot guarantee that I will be back with another book unless my next 30 years or more produce the same collection of thoughts and memories which inspired City Centre! Nonetheless, I already feel very privileged and thankful.

City Centre is all about perspective in Sport, business and life. My connection with two great charities gave everything so much more meaning. That combination brought me an award I richly value, and I hope many more people in the future gain as much as I have from this experience.

Simon Halliday. May 2014