Masin-Moyer: Srivaddhanaprabha’s generosity deserves to be remembered
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Tuesday, October 30, 2018
It’s been almost two-and-a half-years since the greatest sports story ever told was etched into the pages of English Premier League history.
Just a season after finishing 14th, and barely escaping relegation, Leicester City overcame 5,000 to one odds to win the title, breaking an over-two decades-long monopoly on the title by four clubs — Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea — whose budgets and resources far outpaced that of any other club in the English top flight.
Throughout that season, previously unknowns were elevated to the status of heroes. Jamie Vardy’s incredible goal-scoring run just four seasons after playing non-League football, keeper Kasper Schmeichel’s emergence from the shadow of his father, a former Manchester United goalkeeper, and manager Claudio Ranieri’s triumphant return to English football 11 years after being unceremoniously dismissed as Chelsea manager all stand out as lasting moments from that year’s title run.
But one man was often left out in discussions of Leicester’s success. Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who bought Leicester City in 2010, helped transform the side from a middling second-tier team, to one that won the Premier League in all of six years. Srivaddhanaprabha, a Thai businessman who made his fortune through duty-free shops, helped the club grow through shrewd purchase of players and the recruitment of top-level coaches like Ranieri.
Saturday evening, Srivaddhanaprabha and four others died in a helicopter crash taking off from the Leicester’s King Power Stadium. Since the crash, there has been an outpouring of support from the international sporting community in remembrance of Srivaddhanaprabha. This support and mourning though has been especially prevalent in the city of Leicester, not only because of the success he brought to the team, but because of the mark he left on the city.
Club fans were often given free food and beer at games courtesy of the owner, and he gave out free season tickets to fans each year. But Srivaddhanaprabha’s impact went beyond these free giveaways, as he donated £4 million to hospitals in Leicester. Through this generosity, Srivaddhanaprabha was able to forge a unique and mutually respectful relationship between management and fans.
Sports teams are often fully immersed in the communities which they occupy, an indelible part of not just the local economy but of the everyday lives of fans bound together by an unifying ideal and image. Srivaddhanaprabha recognized that, and worked not only to make Leicester City succeed, but the city of Leicester itself. He was no Mark Davis, who uprooted the Raiders from Oakland at the first sight of a shiny new stadium, or Vincent Tan, the owner of Premier League side Cardiff City who completely changed the traditional look of the team to fit his own image.
Teams succeed when they’re not just seen as a tool for profit and marketing, but when they’re seen as inseparable from the people who support them. One of Srivaddhanaprabha’s greatest achievements was not just bringing success to the club but bringing together and helping the city of Leicester. To truly honor Srivaddhanaprabha’s legacy, more team owners ought to follow his lead.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.