This one is for Vikki Orvice

Alison Bender   Personal  

Such is the nature of our world these days; I read the terrible news on twitter. As I dashed out of a meeting and onto the tube I scrolled to the top and there was a tweet from Alex Scott. “Deeply saddened to hear the news of Vikki Orvice passing this morning” My mouth just fell open, right there and then, and it just stayed there. “No, it can’ t be?” I couldn’t quite believe it. I was so shocked and sad, my eyes stung.

It’s a strange one but I didn’t even know Vikki that well, she would always just be there, getting on with it, doing what she so brilliantly did. I’d had the odd conversation with her, but really I knew Vikki the professional, by her writing, by her tweets.

For those who don’t know, Vikki Orvice was the Sun’s athletics writer, but had spent many years of her 24 year career in national newspapers covering football too. She was a regular at games, press conferences and events despite battling breast cancer since 2007.

I don’t want to claim this to be a proper memoir because those can be found all over the internet written by excellent writers and people who knew her better than I did, but I simply can’t be a women who works in football and not write something about her. It just wouldn’t feel right.

I actually went to text her the other day, I’d heard she was back at the Royal Marsden and wanted to wish her well, but I chose to message her husband Ian Ridley (also a journalist) instead and asked him to pass on my best wishes.

Ian has launched a pledge through the amazing #womeninfootball #whatif initiative to publish a book about football by a female author and I have decided to enter. I wanted to drop him a line to say that I was really enjoying writing again, and of course to pass on my wishes. I feel so embarrassed now to be bothering him with such trivia when he was going through this with his dear wife. I had no idea it was so serious, but what a gent he was to get back to me and wish me luck.

It’s too young to go, it’s not fair. She’d battled so hard and courageously with no fuss and a smile on her face, I feel so deeply saddened by it all, but I’ve also been really touched by the number of amazing tributes coming in, and inspired by what Vikki has done for Women in football.

Today I was at Watford for Javi Gracia’s press conference. The head of media stood up at the front and said Javi would like to start with a message for Vikki as she spent so many years covering Watford and sitting here at these press conferences. It was only a small crowd of perhaps 10 journalists but we all stood in solidarity and thought about Vikki, it felt so important just a day after her passing.

You see Vikki was a trailblazer, she was a woman working in football (and sport in general) but she never wore that tag, she was no nonsense, just getting on with her job, with such grace and class and all these tweets were just backing this up. There was a beautiful picture posted by Jacqui Oatley and Jo Tongue, more amazing pioneers showing them putting her heads together to come up with a plan of how more women could be helped in the field. It was such a powerful picture, it was like a sisterhood, women working together, supporting each other and building something exciting for the future. I re-posted it.

Back in 2007 “women in football” was set up by a group of talented and passionate girls, and Vikki attended so many of their meetings over the years speaking about how she could help with mentoring. Even right before her death as her husband Ian explained, Vikki was talking about launching a scholarship campaign to help aspiring women.

Women in football has helped me so much, just to be part of a group when I was always so alone in this field, it’s strong stuff, it gives you a purpose. It’s the soul reason I’m writing this blog, I pledged to do a blog at a wif event and I felt I had backing, for once.

As many people noted, Vikki’s last ever tweet was supporting a fellow woman in football- Alex Scott. Vikki was selfless, hardworking and everything women working in this field should aspire to being. As Ian noted, he just wished she could have seen the outpouring of love and respect for her. I hope she knew how amazing she was, but now she is no longer with us it’s actually more important that everyone that follows in her footsteps knows just how amazing she was.

Ali x