The student sportswriting competition was launched in 2012 in memory of the former sports editor of The Daily Telegraph, David Welch. A huge fan of fine writing, who prospered the careers of many of sports media’s best-known journalists and broadcasters, from Sir Michael Parkinson to Paul Hayward, David Welch ran the Telegraph sports desk for 15 years with an adventurous spirit and ground-breaking results.
In honour of those exceptional, award-winning years, this competition is dedicated to uncovering the next generation of brilliant writers who understand that coverage of sport – both in its breadth and detail – can encompass everything from comedy to tragedy to trenchant opinion, colour and illuminating thought.
A devoted follower of horse racing, David famously predicted that Snow Knight would win the 1974 Derby at 50-1 to the enrichment of the punters who read his column in the Leicester Mercury. This competition does not demand prescience on the same grand scale, but the judges would love to read a glorious variety of work from all corners of the sporting world. Berate Jose Mourinho if you must – but remember other rich seams of material exist away from football. These could include off-beat, investigative work as well as action. All sporting endeavour welcome from action and adventure to anything on the outer fringes that takes your fancy.
A few words from our previous winners:
TEDDY CUTLER – Winner, 2014
Being named David Welch Student Sportswriter of the Year was pretty much the catalyst for everything I have been able to do since in my career. It got me work experience at the Times, who then gave me work. I have now moved on to Newsweek where I am sports reporter – a path which simply would not have been possible without the cachet the award brings.
KATIE SMITH – Winner 2017
I entered the David Welch competition with no real intention of becoming a sportswriter. Apart from writing essays for my degree in English and dabbling in student radio, the closest I’d come to sports journalism was an unfortunate encounter with Alistair Brownlee in a nightclub where I thought it would be a great idea to approach him dressed as a banana. Understandably, this did not lead on to much.
However, my love for all things sports and a burning desire to avoid revision edged me to enter the competition and winning has truly changed my plans and life completely. On the night of the awards ceremony, I got to meet a host of talented and important people within all fields of sports journalism which led directly on to opportunities to shadow Eleanor Oldroyd at BBC 5Live (who won broadcaster of the year), work experience at The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, BBC and paid writing commissions for a selection of publications. Having the backing of an SJA award convinced me that sports journalism was a viable career option and I now freelance at the Telegraph and BBC radio and can’t imagine how that would have happened without the award. The SJAs are taken very seriously within the industry so if you’re looking to break through, this is one way to get noticed immediately.
My two pieces of advice would be: don’t be afraid to write something different or a bit left field. A brilliant football match report is notoriously difficult to write, but coming up with something fresh can be even more intriguing. Secondly, you have nothing to lose from entering and absolutely everything to gain! Best of luck!
James Gheerbrant – Winner 2013
For any aspiring journalist, the most valuable and coveted thing is the chance to bring your writing to the attention of the people who matter. There cannot be many better opportunities than the David Welch Award. For me, the chance to have my work appraised by some of the most influential people in sportswriting – and to attend the main industry awards – has been an invaluable door-opener in an industry that can seem daunting and impenetrable.
Firing off work experience requests can be a fruitless and frustrating experience, but the David Welch Award changed that at a stroke. Not only did I get a week’s work experience at the Telegraph as part of the prize – and it couldn’t have been further from photocopying and coffee-making: I attended matches and press conferences and had several bylines in the Sport supplement – I also got work experience placements at three other newspapers from contacts I made at the SJA Awards. Work experience turned into shifts at the Times, and from those shifts came the opportunity to write several articles, for which (in part) I was lucky enough to win Young Sportswriter of the Year last year.
I can honestly say that the David Welch competition was the launchpad for these opportunities. I would encourage anyone who is interested in sports journalism to enter. Good luck!