Why Leicester City’s ‘Boss’ wasn’t like all the other billionaire owners
OPINION: After the tragic helicopter crash over the weekend, councillor – and Leicester City fan - Rishi Madlani reveals why the club and the city became so attached to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha
01 November, 2018 — By Rishi Madlani
Rishi Madlani, a Leicester City fan and a Labour councillor in the Bloomsbury ward
NORMALLY us councillors would be chomping at the bit to write something for the New Journal, but it’s with a heavy heart and after many tears that I sit down to write this tribute to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the chairman and owner of Leicester City Football Club who passed alongside two members of the helicopter crew and two members of his staff in a tragic accident on Saturday night.
But why the outpouring of grief at the passing of a billionaire? It wasn’t the free beer or doughnuts often given out at matches, which bought love from the Leicester fans, nor the authentic commitment to the city. From over £2million for the Leicester Royal Infirmary, support for the university and the King Richard memorial, normally these would all be worthy reasons to cause fans and Leicester residents to love the family, but to understand the origins of these emotions we need to look back eight years.
Vichai – or “the Boss” as he was more affectionately known – bought Leicester City Football club in 2010, just three years after Leicester had hit an all-time low with relegation to League One, the old Third Division, for the first time in history. Although that was a short-lived experience, a return to the Championship soon brought new owners.
The arrival of new owners of any football club comes with an initial mixture of optimism and scepticism of any takeover. Sadly football has a mixed record of owners who too often seek to monetise the fans and profiteer from the beautiful game. But this new owner was to prove different and in 2014 the Boss promised Leicester would finish in the top five within three years, which understandably was greeted with bemusement.
On Boxing Day 2014 Leicester were rock bottom of the league – followers of the Premier League will know this pretty much guarantees relegation and the top-five finish seemed a joke – but what Leicester pulled off in the last 10 games was nothing short of a miracle as the club went on to secure Premier League status for another season.
Understandably, Leicester started the 2015/16 season at 5000-1 odds to win the Premier League, and what was to follow can only be described as the most impossible, most ludicrous outcome of unfashionable Leicester City going on to win the Premier League for the first time in their history.
The Boss had promised this to Leicester fans and then made their dreams come true. For that he will always be loved and this Leicester fan, for one, will never forget him.
• Richard Osley’s column will return next week.