By Reece Chambers
At around 8.20pm on October 27, the footballing world was sent into shock with the news that the helicopter of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha had crashed outside the King Power Stadium.
The news everyone connected to Leicester City Football Club had been dreading was confirmed the following day – Vichai, along with the helicopter’s pilot, co-pilot and two members of Vichai’s staff had been confirmed dead.
In what is one of the most incomprehensible sporting tragedies in modern history, this is a story that signifies the end of a sporting fairytale for Leicester City.
Just six days after such a tragedy, the Leicester City players played in the Welsh capital against Neil Warnock’s Cardiff, winning the game 1-0.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha had constructed a sporting miracle in Leicester by defying the club’s 5,000/1 odds to win the Premier League title in the 2015/16 season.
His determination, dedication and ambition at the Midlands club had captured the hearts not only of Foxes fans, but the wider footballing world. As a result, this is a tragedy that makes it much harder to take.
The story of a Thai billionaire business owner’s unique connection with Leicester City has only become publicly known due to such tragic circumstances.
To an extent, that’s the measure of a man who didn’t buy a football club for self-promotion or financial success. Vichai had a patience and calmness that is lacking all too many times amongst football owners.
Having taken over the club almost eight years ago, the announcement that a foreign business owner was taking control of Leicester City was met with much reluctance.
However, a statement from then-owner Milan Mandaric shows just how highly thought of Vichai was.
“Today is a great day for Leicester City. Our owners are fantastic people with incredible ambition for the future. They have great character and integrity and they will strive for success for Leicester City,” said Mandaric of Vichai’s takeover.
From the outset, Vichai demonstrated an ambition and passion unrivalled by 99% of football owners.
Under his ownership, Leicester City performed one of the greatest sporting miracles of all time. But, Vichai’s time at Leicester City was built on strong values.
The millions of pounds donated to local charities, spontaneous gifts for travelling away fans and generosity towards his players made everyone forget that this was his business.
Vichai’s ownership showed no signs of being a matter of business. Instead, it was one of warmth and generosity which makes such a situation all the more tragic.
This is the story of a footballing tragedy that has no happy ending for The Foxes. The charisma and charm of Vichai has gone, but his legacy will live on.
Tributes outside the King Power Stadium have grown uncontrollably since the crash. Fans from all around the UK have come together to send their condolences and offer support for Vichai’s family and everyone at Leicester City Football Club.
“He was a true fox, one of our own”
To measure the impact that Vichai had on the club and how the tragic events have impacted the club, we spoke to Leicester City fanzine, 100% LCFC.
Content editor Lee Chapman only has good things to say about Vichai and the connection he had with everyone at the club.
“He was one of us. Not just an owner, he was a true fox, one of our own,” said Chapman of 100% LCFC.
Since the crash, it has been made publicly known that Vichai donated millions of pounds to hospitals in Leicester.
His generosity towards the heart of the Leicester community is something that strikes a personal chord with Chapman who has benefitted from such donations.
“It’s what he’s done for the hospitals that really hit me because of my own experience in hospital with family.
“There are posters everywhere [in the hospital] saying thank you to Leicester City for the donations. That’s when it hit really hard.
“Even as the chairman, this man has affected my life too,” Chapman said.
After an incredible fairytale story with Leicester City – from the Great Escape in the 2014/15 season to a Premier League title in the following season – this tragedy comes as the third and final chapter for Vichai, according to 100% LCFC.
“I feel like this is part of the same story. It’s like a third chapter of the story after the Great Escape chapter and then going on to amaze the world by winning the Premier League.”
And, after such a heartwarming reaction from the football community, Chapman believes that the tragedy has received such a warm embrace due to the type of person Vichai was.
“I was only expecting good things from the footballing community because he was a good person. People react kindly to generous people.”
As Chapman says, this is a tragedy that has outlined the quality of person the Leicester City owner was.
Consequently, his legacy will live on for years to come. His son, Aiyawatt, has vowed to continue his father’s work at the club. And, given that such togetherness has been shown at the club, there is no doubting that The Foxes will stick together and get through these current tough times.