By Anton Rippon
Vic Wakeling, the man behind the sporting broadcast revolution, has died at the age of 73.
A former regional sportswriter, Wakeling became one of the most influential figures in football and televised sport.
Former ITV Central controller of sport, Gary Newbon, credits pioneer Wakeling with re-booting his career.
Newbon recalled: “I first met Vic when I worked for ATV and he was assistant sports editor at the Birmingham Mail and we always got on.
“We kept in touch and I never criticised Sky even though I never thought it would work. Vic proved everyone wrong.
“He offered me a job when I left ITV and gave me a new career. I was 59 at the time and had been at ITV for 36 years but needed a change.
“He put production values on top of the list. From day one he did revolutionary things, not least a 24-hour sports news channel. Rupert Murdoch backed him with everything.
“He will always be remembered for leading the way in sports broadcasting. This is a sad day.”
Wakeling, a softly-spoken North-Easterner, worked for the Derby Evening Telegraph in the late 1960s. After leaving the paper for the Birmingham Mail and then Fleet Street – he worked for The Observer, Daily Express, People and London Evening News where he was sports editor – he moved into television in 1980 with TVS before joining satellite channel BSB.
He had been with BSkyB since its formation in 1990. He was Sky’s head of football from 1991, head of sport from 1994, and in the autumn of 1998 became managing director of Sky Sports, with responsibilities for Sky News added in 2007, through to his retirement in 2009.
Wakeling played a decisive role in snatching for Sky the rights to the embryonic FA Premiership when Sky’s chief executive, Sam Chisholm, used Wakeling’s extensive contacts at the very top of football to gain a march on their rivals.
Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports said: “Very few people have had a greater impact on sport in the UK and Ireland than Vic Wakeling.
“As head of Sky Sports for over 15 years, Vic’s vision, belief and investment helped transform sport on pitch and off. At a time when sport was undervalued and underfunded, Vic helped create Sky Sports and with it a platform that sport deserved.
‘His legacy is the spectacle that sport plays in the lives of millions every day’
“We are truly saddened and sorry to lose a pioneer, a colleague and a friend and I know everyone at Sky will join me in wishing his family and closest friends our deepest sympathies.”
Jeremy Darroch, group CEO of Sky, added: “As managing director of Sky Sports, Vic Wakeling took sport from the evening bulletins and made it part of the national conversation through dedicated channels, innovative production and award-winning analysis.
“Vic’s foresight and passion drove investment, interest and participation in sports at all levels and his legacy is the spectacle that sport plays in the lives of millions every day.”
Wakeling won lifetime achievement awards at the 2007 Sports Industry Awards and 2008 Broadcast Awards.
In 2011 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s birthday honours in recognition for the role he played in revolutionising both British football and television coverage of the sport.
He leaves his wife, Susan, and four children, Sally, Rob, Caroline and Kate.
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