London | Its popularity once fueled in part by the football-fanzine movement and the football-book boom of the 1990s, specialty bookstore Sportspages of Charing Cross Road has gone into administration. New Zealander John Gaustad founded the store in 1985, opened a companion branch in Manchester and helped launch the annual William Hill Prize for Britain’s best sports title. Matthew Engel of the Financial Times calls Sportspages, later acquired by Sports Book Direct, “the intellectual headquarters of a sporting revolution,” while Alex Dawson of the Londonist Web log laments the loss of fanzine access:
[N]o matter if you support Gillingham or Manchester United, you can pop down Charing Cross Road and pick up a copy of “Brian Moore’s Head” or “The Red Issue.” This is a vital service and if we are to lose it, well, we might as well just close this city down.
Aficionados seeking obscure titles on rugby, baseball and even American football, which Sportspages stocked aplenty, increasingly have turned to online resources; the trend presents a daunting challenge for many small-bookstore owners. Fears of terrorism and global instability have also left their mark. “If it’s the end of the world,” says Gaustad, “people aren’t going to rush out and buy biographies of footballers.”
Update: A visit to the shop on Jan 26 confirmed that a liquidation sale had been held on Jan 19 and 20. The store is dark.