Vale: A champion of the women’s game who raised its public profile

posted in: News, Obituary

Eric Pritchard, whose writing and photography helped grow the popularity of women’s football in New Zealand, has died.

Pritchard, an Everton fan, led efforts to promote the women’s game when it was in its infancy during the 1970s and 1980s, reporting in publications such as Auckland’s Soccer Express.

Jeremy Ruane, who has been the pre-eminent writer about women’s football for the past 30 years, paid tribute to Pritchard, saying he was sad to learn of his recent death.

Ruane credits Pritchard for generating ‘the lion’s share’ of publicity about the women’s game till the early 1990s.

Former Football Fern Wendy Sharpe has also shared her respect for Pritchard who persuaded her to join the Mt Wellington women’s team, which he managed, in 1979.

He spotted the 15-year-old Sharpe playing for Penrose High School.

In her online tribute to Pritchard, she wrote: “Thank you. Eric. for taking me under your wing as a young, naive player.

“Credit must go to you for spotting something in me as a footballer, as that was my first time playing.

“If it wasn’t for you, I might not have joined a club, as I was a very shy young girl way back then.”

Sharpe says Pritchard became “a great mate” and remained in regular contact until he moved into a rest home with health issues about five years ago.

A private service has already been held.