Controversial Night Games by Anna Krien is 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year

Night Games, a controversial investigation into the ritual abuse of women embedded in Australian sport, has been named the winner of the 26th William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, the richest and most prestigious literary sports writing prize in the world.

Described by the judges as a ‘painstaking, intelligent, but above all, open-minded examination of an immensely complicated area’, Night Games follows the trial of an Australian Rules footballer player accused of rape, the outcome of which led author Anna Krien to consider what she describes as the ‘grey area’ of sexual consent.

Alyson Rudd, the Times journalist who is one of the judges of the annual award, commented: 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 the Sheffield United player 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 was announced as the winner of the 2014 award by judge and broadcaster John Inverdaleat a lunchtime ceremony at BAFTA in central London. A multiple award-winning journalist, born and living in Australia, Krien is only the second woman in the award’s history to scoop what has become known as the ‘Bookie Prize’.

William Hill spokesman and co-founder of the Award, Graham Sharpe, said: “Despite the challenging nature of its subject matter, Anna Krien’s book is balanced yet fearless, and as compelling and involving as any previous winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

"Quite possibly, only a woman could have written it in as personal and perceptive a manner. Anna is the second woman to have won the Award, following Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit, and she had to beat one of the strongest, most varied line-ups in our 26-year history. It remains disappointing that on average, under 10 per cent of the books submitted each year are written by women, and we hope that Anna's success will encourage many more women to write about sport.”

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. She joins an illustrious list of past winners, including Nick Hornby, Duncan Hamilton, Donald McRae and Paul Kimmage.

In taking the winning prize, Krien triumphed over a strong shortlist that included two other titles looking at the macho culture in sport: Gareth Thomas’s autobiography, Proud, which documents the challenges he faced keeping his sexuality a secret while playing at the top of his profession, and Alone by Bill Jones, the biography of iconic figure skater John Curry, looking at the Olympian’s battle to change the muscular face of men’s skating through his sensual performances. 

Other titles on the shortlist included: Floodlights and Touchlines, a sweeping history of spectator sport by journalist and academic Rob Steen; the autobiography of endurance runner Kilian Jornet, Run or Die; a sporting history of the capital, Played in London, by Simon Inglis; and Bobby Moore: The Man in Full,  a biography of the England footballing legend, by Times chief sports writer Matt Dickinson.

The judging panel for this year’s award consisted of retired footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Clarke Carlisle, broadcaster and writer John Inverdale, broadcaster Danny Kelly, award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney,  and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop, John Gaustad, returned as chairman of the judging panel.

Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport by Anna Krien is published by Yellow Jersey Press. Buy now from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.

Read more about Anna Krien's book.

The shortlist in full