Manchester Football Writing Festival 2015: From goalpost to page

Joe Daly

Our highlights of this year’s festival feature The Blizzard, Football Weekly – and the journalists who played a key role in exposing FIFA corruption.

Returning for its second year, the Manchester Football Writing Festival has snuck up fairly unheralded, despite being a partnership between big-hitters Waterstones and the National Football Museum. Between them, these two organisations bring in some of the biggest names in football journalism across the ten days of the festival (1-10 September), so expect William Hill Prize winners, Guardian editors and the most-listened-to football podcast, amongst others. Here are our top three highlights from the programme.

The Blizzard, LIVE!

Kicking off (sorry…) the festival and highlighting its focus on quality journalism is football quarterly The Blizzard. From tentative beginnings, The Blizzard has found a larger than expected niche for long-form, in-depth essays and articles on lesser reported areas of football culture. The LIVE! show was one of the highlights of last year’s festival, thanks to the breadth of knowledge and obscure anecdotes of the panellists. The Blizzard’s editor and font of knowledge Jonathan Wilson will hopefully have more tales of strange goings on in African press boxes, and will be joined by local lad and football’s answer to Owen Jones, David Conn. Marcus Speller from Podcast royalty The Football Ramble will once again be chairing proceedings. Expect a more considered view of football and the culture surrounding it. The National Football Museum, 1 Sept, 7pm. Tickets £12

Guardian Football Weekly, LIVE!

The other big name coming to the festival is podcast behemoth, Football Weekly. The Guardian’s twice weekly football podcast sold out the RNCM last year and has been boosted up to the grand setting of Manchester Cathedral to celebrate Manchester’s other god, football. Despite a more rambunctious and jokey style than The Blizzard – thanks mainly to the rambling stories and “banter” of ex-stand up comic Barry Glendenning – the live podcast should include in-depth analysis and, hopefully, some stories that they have to switch the recording off for. This one’s likely to be the liveliest show at the festival, with a loud and passionate crowd controlled by the knowing smirk of James Richardson of Football Italia and Football Weekly. Manchester Cathedral, 3 Sept, 6pm. Tickets £15

The Ugly Game

There’s no debate on the biggest football story of the year, as the corruption running through FIFA became no longer the worst-kept secret in sport. Even Lance Armstrong would have been shocked at the level of wrong-doing in the world’s biggest game. One of the precursors to the scandal was Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake’s investigation, The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot To Buy The World Cup. Exposing the money and corruption that led to a nation not built for football getting to host its biggest tournament, the book has been regularly touted as one of the most important sports books of a generation. For this event, the authors will be discussing their work, what will happen to FIFA, and what football should do next. Waterstones Deansgate, 4 Sept, 7pm. Tickets £10

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