My Thoughts on Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha
Following the tragic events of the weekend I can’t let the moment go without paying tribute to Vichai.
As a business based in Leicestershire with strong links to the local community, we are well aware of the benefits that Vichai and his family brought to the city. Charitable work and donations to good causes locally, plus an active involvement with the community around the club, made for strong links and affection throughout the city, football fans or not. For this, the city of Leicester will be eternally grateful.
This blog then, is instead a chance for me to give a more personal tribute to Vichai on his role at Leicester City.
As a season ticket holder and a visitor to many football clubs around the world, what often strikes me is the gulf between the fans and the owners – the “haves” and the “have nots” if you like. This is increasingly common in the upper echelons of football. Vichai was of course a very wealthy man. We would often see the helicopter take off after matches and be awe-struck by the sight of it landing on the pitch. The Rolls Royce in the car park always makes for an impressive sight too!
So what made Vichai different?
The thing is, for all his wealth, he never came across as aloof or set himself apart from the fans. Often walking the concourse at the ground, posing for selfies with fans, buying drinks for supporters (free donuts too on his birthday), he always had time for people. Normal people. I’ve seen fans after a few drinks running over to him for photos, maybe a bit worse for wear, but did he usher them away or have security people move them along? No, he joked about it as they put their arms around him for a photo. Bear hugs too! If we had a long trip away, we would find food and drinks vouchers waiting for us when we arrived, all paid for by Vichai. He didn’t have to do that, he just chose to.
As a supporter I genuinely felt, and feel, he is one of us.
You know why he takes a helicopter from matches? It’s because he often travelled half way around the world to see his team play. He could watch it on a giant screen in luxury anywhere in the world, but he wanted to come and sit out in the cold and the rain with the fans rather than see it on TV. Not just for the big games either I can tell you!
He may be gone but he will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Mr Chairman.