Mark Thompson

Remembering Leicester City’s owner, our fairy godfather

This morning, Leicester City lost their owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. As a long-suffering fan of the club, what he instilled in us will live forever.

 

 

The legacy of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha moves far beyond his visceral end in headline type. It’s passe, I know, as the injectional of wealth into a sporting team doesn’t seem to solve much in the grand confusing scheme of things, but as a fan who lived his reign, it does matter.

 

 

Modern football is a business. Romance doesn’t enter into it, it is capitalism manifest. Those who have it are far and away above those who don’t. For every Manchester City, there are a hundred small clubs hoping for the miracle of a benefactor with limitless funds and limitless patience.

Football’s modern financial revolution might have begun in London with Roman Abramovich’s roubles poured into Chelsea, but it has spread elsewhere. We’ve since seen the American Glazer Family take over Manchester United, Sheikh Mansour who moonlights as the owner of Manchester City when not being the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, the Fenway Sporting Group owns Liverpool FC (as well as the Boston Red Sox), and Arsenal FC is primarily owned by Stan Kroenke, who also owns the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL and the Denver Nuggets of the NBA.

While those benefactors exist, they entered into a brand that was already secure. It was a low-risk investment. Save for Manchester City, all those clubs had tasted success in some form or another. Leicester City almost didn’t exist post-2003. The Premier League remains the ultimate boys club, a place to add inches to your penis, an opportunity to add another revenue stream to your empire. When Vichai took over Leicester, we were unsure. Our day had seemingly come, but a lifetime of earnest failure breeds cynicism in the heart. When it came to foreign investment,  the negative examples were easy to see. All over the league, the established fan bases, the old “life-blood” of the club, were in revolt against this new brand of management. The general assumption was a gain of finance equates to a loss of tradition and identity. It was merely the cost of doing business. By saving the club, you could also lose the club.

What happened to Leyton Orient could happen to us.

 

 

However, it soon became clear that there was nothing behind the megawatt vibrancy of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. While he spent £100m to see us promoted to the Premier League, it was his presence that many noticed. It seems far too obvious to point out, but his attendance was noted. And yes, many of us would have stomached the absentee owner in exchange for success, the fact that he seemingly cared about the direction of our tiny club as much as we did, meant something. He did something that we often did not. He enjoyed watching us play.

Which brings me, inevitably to our fairytale. Ask any Leicester City fan about 2015, and you’ll be met by a confused shrug, and a wide grin. We’re not entirely sure that it happened. We were 5000-1. We were the longest long shots in recorded history. We were that every season, we were nothing. By all rights, we shouldn’t have won, we were not worthy of it. That was ostensibly the feeling that year. We were waiting for the bottom to fall out. It was the longest year we all lived through. Through it all, we were kept by the smile of Vichai. He was the only one who believed it was part of a deliberate plot, a pre-ordained grand plan where Leicester would be victorious, and the year that we thought we’d never experience, would be this one. No-one goes from relegation to champions.

Quietly, his belief became ours. No-one would go from relegation to champions. No-one…but us.

 

 

We may never win another title again, but we are certain that we’ll never have another owner like him. He, like the success he enabled, was an outlier. He was an Everest in the Midlands. He, like our name on the trophy, will stand forever.

Thanks, Boss.

 

 

 

 

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