No other TV executive has been as influential in spearheading the changes in on-screen sport during the last 25 years as Vic Wakeling, who has died aged 73.
Arriving at Sky Sport following the formation of the Premier League in 1992, he masterminded the satellite broadcaster’s revolutionary coverage of football.
Vic began his career in newspapers in the north east of England. The beginning of his working life is the stuff of Boy’s Own legend. Out doing his paper round he saw an advert in the Blaydon Courier for a junior reporter. After cycling the six miles to the paper’s office, he was given the job on the spot after waiting for the editor to open up the office.
Vic’s obsession was sport, especially football. As a rookie reporter he boosted his income by ringing in match reports from local football and cricket games to Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle.
A spell on the sports desk at the Birmingham Evening Mail followed. In Fleet Street he worked at the Sun, the Observer and the Daily Express, and was sports editor of the London Evening News.
When the News folded in 1980, Vic began working in TV at the suggestion of a friend, Mark Sharman, who later ran ITV Sport. Vic joined the prosperous ITV station, TVS, before moving to the doomed British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB).
It was Sky’s effective takeover of BSB in 1990 that gave Vic his big break.
As head of football at the struggling Murdoch-backed challenger, re-booted as BSkyB, Vic used his contacts to help Murdoch and colourful CEO Sam Chisholm turn the tables on ITV and the BBC.
BSkyB caused outrage in the TV establishment when in May 1992 it secured exclusive live Premier League rights in a five-year deal. Vic never looked back. UK television sports coverage would never be the same again as the old cartel operated by ITV and BBC was destroyed for good.
The following years showed that millions of people were prepared to pay significant sums to watch what became the most sought after sports league in the world. Without the Premier League, it is unlikely that BSkyB’s business would have grown to what it became.
Vic was a workaholic, who, as head of Sky Sports for more than 15 years, led a number of innovations that football fans today take for granted. There was the interactive red button for extended coverage and the choice of camera angles. There was the move into digital, extra channels, live feeds, broadband, widescreen and sports in high definition.
In 2007, Vic added Sky News to his managing director responsibilities. Two years later her retired and was appointed a CBE.
Vic is survived by his wife, Sue, three daughters, Sally, Caroline and Kate, and a son, Rob.