Catherine Riley, former Times journalist, has died

Catherine Riley, the former assistant sports editor at The Times, has died. She was 48.

Catherine Riley
Catherine Riley

Riley had worked at The Independent and on the relaunch of the Sporting Life before moving to The Times, where as well as reporting on football and motor sports she had a key role as deputy football editor on the launch of The Game Monday supplement, as well as had a spell as the paper’s property editor. She left the newspaper in 2008 to move to Devon, where she freelanced before becoming the co-ordinator of Exeter City’s Football in the Community programme.

Riley died from breast cancer, which was diagnosed two years ago through an innovative thermal imaging technique. According to one of her former colleagues, Liz Gerard, “This ensured that she received prompt treatment, and last year things were looking hopeful. But the cancer returned to her womb last month and she died on Monday morning.”

She leaves her partner, Jamie Vittles, and their 11-year-old daughter, Dulcie.

The SJA sends its condolences and deepest sympathy to Catherine’s family and friends at this terribly sad time.

Gerard, who runs the SubScribe journalism blog, is collating tributes and memories of Catherine from her former colleagues and friends, here. Among those already posted is this, from Keith Blackmore, the former Times sports executive and deputy editor:

When we appointed Catherine to the sports desk she was joining a small but distinguished group of women sports journalists. Alyson Rudd, Alison Kervin, and Alix Ramsay were already there, soon to be joined by, among others, Ashling O’Connor, Juanita Greville and Sue Connolly.

She was a sports fan first and foremost, with a regrettable passion for Arsenal, and could more than hold her own in the sometimes boisterous world of Times Sport, never fearing to tell her various editors what she really thought.

Catherine was a serious and talented journalist and a born organiser, swiftly demonstrating the skills that led her to become deputy football editor, motoring correspondent and editor of Bricks&Mortar.

But what she really brought to us all was fun – a thought that is all the more heartbreaking now.

When Robert Thomson whimsically decided – in afternoon conference – that what our Wimbledon coverage really needed was a guide for readers to make a DIY sunhat from the sports pages of that day’s paper, there was only one person to whom I could turn. As far as I know, Catherine had no training in origami, but she delivered the hat in time for the first edition and even modelled it (being highly photogenic was another of her many assets).

When I wanted someone to write a piece on what it was like being in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car, it was naturally Catherine who obliged, and her likening the experience to being strapped to a washing machine on heavy cycle still brings a sad smile to my lips even as I write this.

And then there was Krystal Balls. One of my less defensible ideas, Krystal’s job was to predict the outcome of the weekend’s football results according to the stars. Somehow Catherine managed to conceal – just – her contempt for this ludicrous proposition and make it funny.

Whenever lunacy or fun was in the air, Catherine was our first stop. She never complained (or not much anyway) and always delivered.

Her courage and determination during her illness will have come as no surprise to anyone who ever had an argument with her – just about all of us at one time or another, I’d guess. But my abiding memory is of a lovely, clever, talented woman with a will of iron, who could make me laugh at the drop of a DIY hat.