Tributes to ex-Midlands journalist who pioneered Sky Sports football coverage

A former Sports Editor of the Birmingham Evening Mail, who went on to pioneer Sky Sport’s acclaimed coverage of Premier League football, has died at the age of 73.

Vic Wakeling, who rose to become Sky Sports managing director, also worked in print journalism in the north of England and enjoyed a successful career in Fleet Street before moving into television in 1980.

John Lamb, vice-president of Birmingham Press Club and Press and PR director at Greater Birmingham Chamber, said: “I worked with Vic Wakeling on both the Birmingham Mail and in Fleet Street and he was one of the most talented journalists I knew.  I was his deputy when he was Sports Editor of the London Evening News. His professionalism and attention to detail was second to none. When the News closed Vic went into television and made a significant and lasting impression, rising to managing director of Sky News. 

“He used his innate sense of knowing what sports fans wanted to read and see to the huge benefit of Sky Television and his influence on the shape of coverage will be enjoyed for many years to come.”

Vic became managing director of Sky Sports in the autumn of 1998, with responsibilities for Sky News added in 2007, through to his retirement in 2009. At his retirement party, Rupert Murdoch, in a video tribute, spoke of a "much-loved colleague, who revolutionised sports broadcasting with breadth and depth, raising the bar for the whole country, taking the bravest of risks, he leaves behind a truly great legacy, Sky Sports, still hungry for more. It is time to take a bow, but how much you have done. It's been a pleasure and privilege to be with you. I thank you for playing a part in this truly great venture".

Vic was Sky's Head of Sport from 1994 and Head of Football from 1991.

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.

"We are truly saddened and sorry to lose a pioneer, a colleague and a friend."

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."

Premier League executive chairman, Richard Scudamore, also paid tribute, highlighting Vic’s professional and personal integrity.

He said: "All at the Premier League are so sorry to hear of Vic Wakeling's passing and our thoughts are with his family. His achievements are well documented, including the revolution he brought to the innovative ways in which sport is now broadcast.

"We will remember him just as much for the professionalism and integrity he displayed at all times and for being the most decent of people."

Vic moved into television in 1980 with TVS then moved to Mark McCormack's IMG before joining satellite channel BSB. He had been with BSkyB since its formation in 1990.

He had previously worked in print journalism in the north and midlands before moving to Fleet Street with The Observer, Daily Express, People and London Evening News.

Joining Sky Sports at its launch, Vic was one of the team who established the new service and developed its acclaimed coverage of the Premier League from August 1992.

He oversaw Sky Sports growth into a network of five dedicated sports channels - Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 3, Sky Sports Xtra and Sky Sports News - and three high definition channels.

His channels are renowned for their quality live broadcasts, depth of coverage and wide range of sports. He also oversaw the rise of - the UK's most successful commercial sports site.

During his time there were numerous on-screen innovations, including bringing viewers the world's first live interactive sport, the first round-the-clock sports news channel and the move into HD broadcasting.

He won lifetime achievement awards at the 2007 Sports Industry Awards and 2008 Broadcast Awards.

In 2011, Vic was awarded a CBE in the Queen's birthday honours. The award was recognition for the role he played in revolutionising both British football and television coverage of the sport.

Vic, who died on Monday, 15 May, is survived by his widow, Susan, and four children, Sally, Rob, Caroline and Kate.