SOME of the biggest names in sport have lined up to pay tribute to a North-East journalist who transformed the face of UK broadcasting.

Former Sky Sports managing director Vic Wakeling died on Monday at the age of 73.

Born in Low Westwood, near Consett, and educated at High Spen, the lifelong Newcastle United fan began his career as a newspaper journalist, including a stint on the Consett Guardian, and earned extra cash by phoning in local football and cricket reports.

He went on to be first head of football at BSkyB when the pioneering pay-TV network won the rights to screen live matches from the newly-formed Premier League.

Mr Wakeling went on to become first head of sport and then managing director of Sky Sports before his retirement in 2009

The broadcaster’s current managing director Barney Francis 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, and I know everyone at Sky will join me in wishing his family and closest friends our deepest sympathies.”

Many of the greats of British sport joined tributes to the pioneering broadcaster.

Durham County Cricket Club’s new chairman Sir Ian Botham said: “Very sad to hear of the passing of one of sport’s greatest television pioneers”.

Former world champion boxer Barry McGuigan said: “So sad to hear of the passing of my old boss at Sky Vic Wakeling, incredibly hard working and a great man”.

Snooker promoter Barry Hearn described Wakeling as “A legend in the TV business who changed sports coverage forever”.

In a statement from the Premier League, executive chairman Richard Scudamore expressed the league’s sorrow at the news and sent condolences to his family.

“His achievements are well documented, including the revolution he brought to the innovative ways in which sport is now broadcast,” said Scudamore.

“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.”

He was given a CBE in the 2011 Queen’s birthday honours.

He leaves his wife, Susan, and four children, Sally, Rob, Caroline and Kate.