Publishers to score with World Cup book sales

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The Independent Culture

When Wayne Rooney became the latest victim of the curse of the metatarsal, it was not just football fans that were left pondering an uncertain future.

Publishers are preparing for a World Cup sales bonanza this summer and expectations of selling an estimated two million books - worth at least £10m - depend largely on England's success.

Publishers hope the blockbusters will come after the month-long tournament, which starts on 9 June, thanks to big-name player biographies awaiting the inclusion of - preferably heroic - World Cup tales.

With football books accounting for at least half of the sports sector, an England triumph at the Berlin final would dwarf the publishing phenomena produced by the World Cup-winning England rugby team and last summer's Ashes cricket success.

Poised to go to the printers are books about most of England's star players, including Rooney who made sports publishing history recently by signing a £5m deal with HarperCollins for five books over 12 years.

His editors are sweating over the player's fitness and are ready to postpone the 24 July publication date should the 20-year-old striker play no part in the tournament. Almost every England star has a book out later this summer, and Rooney's Manchester United team-mate Rio Ferdinand's promises much as it will deal for the first time with his recent season-long exile because of a missed drugs test.

Steven Gerrard, whose stock has risen even higher following Saturday's FA Cup performance, has also put pen to paper, along with Frank Lampard.

The England defender Ashley Cole, who has a pop star girlfriend and recently launched legal action against two newspapers over gay slurs, may be left with little to tell if England perform poorly as he has missed much of the season through injury.

Theo Walcott, the 17-year-old named in the World Cup squad despite not having played in the Premiership, is thought to have rejected a book deal until his prospects for making an appearance become clear.

"An awful lot hinges on the outcome and for that reason we are holding back on the autumn titles," said Roddy Bloomfield, veteran sports editor of Hodder & Stoughton, which has recently published books from England cricket captain, Freddie Flintoff, and former England football manager, Sir Bobby Robson.

Michael Doggart, publishing director of HarperCollins sports division, which has signed both Rooney and Cole, said: "A certain amount depends on how the team perform and we will benefit if [they do well]. Putting that aside, the quality of the story is important as is their personality and their popularity. It also helps greatly if they have a constituency beyond their clubs. It is also important to react quickly if England do well, as we saw with the national rugby and cricket teams."

There are also football titles not reliant on Sven Goran Eriksson guiding the national team to its first tournament success in 40 years. Industry experts believe the best-selling book will be from Paul Gascoigne, the former England star, who will lay bare his addictions in Being Gazza next month.

Apart from the quadrennial editions of football quiz and joke books, and branded publications from Match of the Day and football magazines, this World Cup sees some new departures.

Among the nostalgic titles to coincide with the 40th anniversary of England's dramatic World Cup defeat of Germany is a book on the triumphant England manager Sir Alf Ramsey by the journalist Leo McKinstry.

Reflecting changes in the national team's following, there are also fewer hooligan confessionals. Mark Perryman, a fans' group leader, hopes to plug a gap in the market for the growing number of England fans who want to read about themselves. His book, Ingerland: Travels of a Football Nation, charts evolution of the modern England fan.

He believes there is a niche market for the work as 90 per cent of books follow events on the pitch or hooliganism. "At Italia 90 there were fewer than 10,000 at the semi-final. There are expected to be 100,000 in Germany - a tenfold rise in 16 years."

Top reads for football fans this summer

* THINKING FAN'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD CUP Various authors (HarperCollins)

An upmarket bluffer's guide which is at pains to point out it is "not strictly a football book". No sports hacks allowed, instead there is a contributor from each of the 32 participating countries. The Arsenal fan Nick Hornby ponders the dual loyalties to club and country, a former Mexican foreign minister invites George Bush to a game and a New Yorker writer covers the World Cup underdogs - and England opponents - Trinidad and Tobago.

* WAYNE ROONEY AUTOBIOGRAPHY By Hunter Davies (HarperCollins)

The one-footed wonder has committed to HarperCollins for the next 12 years for £5m in the biggest deal in sports publishing. But his likely exclusion from the World Cup due to a broken foot will be a headache to ghost-writer Hunter Davies. The first of five books was to have hit the shelves at the end of July but those planned chapters on Rooney's tournament experiences may have to be ditched.

* INGERLAND: TRAVELS OF A FOOTBALL NATION By Mark Perryman (Simon & Schuster)

Charts the evolution of the England fan from rioting scourge of football internationals in the 1980s to the legions of largely well behaved, multiethnic supporters at Euro 2004. Perryman, an articulate fans' group leader, interviews around 100 fans and bases his work on decades travelling with the "Three Lions" brigade. His target market is the growing band of England fans - around 100,000 are expected in Germany.


The insider's tip for the best-selling of this summer's football-related books from Paul Gascoigne. Published when England play Sweden, modern English football's best known tortured genius tells it warts and all. A follow-up to Gazza's bestseller My Story, it will cover his problems with drink, bulimia, gambling, attention deficit disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Its emotionally raw content mean it is expected to sell 500,000 copies.


Unashamedly blokeish, and not the most politically-correct of titles, borrowed from the Second World War-themed sitcom about the Home Guard. An apparent backlash against football's literati, this is about "crap keepers, disgusting kits and worst tackles". It also explores Anglo-German relations through football. The book's title is also vying to outdo Embrace, who recorded the official team song, to become the unofficial England World Cup anthem.

* THE ITALIAN JOB By Gianluca Vialli and Gabriele Marcotti (Bantam Press)

The former Chelsea player and manager joins with the international sports journalist Marcotti to contrast the idiosyncrasies of the English and Italian games. Perhaps lacking the mass-market appeal of other titles, the book is, though, an early contender for this year's literary prizes in sport, and features a long list of high- profile contributors. Expect analyses of sociological and cultural variations rather than match tactics.