On Saturday evening, in Leicestershire, England, a helicopter crashed onto the car park of the King Power Stadium, the homeground of Leicester City Football Club, a football club whose success story is as magical as it is inspirational.
Under 24 hours later after the unfortunate accident, the club officially released a statement that its owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was among the five people who lost their lives in the crash.
Vichai, who used to be an ardent Chelsea FC fan and sponsor, bought Leicester City FC in August 2010, only five years after he set out to own a club that “can beat Chelsea FC” (after an incident in 2005). The success story that ensued is one that everyone who owns or runs a football club should look at if you have your club at heart.
It took Vichai only three years to fix Leicester City and prepare it to challenge for laurels, starting from the championship playoffs and it was a success from there.
Many people might want to believe that Vichai’s Leicester City FC were lucky to achieve what they achieved in his eight years but there are a few qualities that strategically positioned the club for the overwhelming success.
He had a dream. Do our club administrators point to a definite and tangible dream for their clubs? Well, how will they even dream it if it was just a compensation package for their contribution to the government of the day. Vichai knew what he wanted even before he got the club and he started planning for it.
Besides his dream, Vichai had passion. He loved it as a family and would never let it come to ruin. He put his heart into running his club so much that even after falling out with any staff, they get to understand that it was out of passion and never out of vendatta nor ego. He always wanted the best for his club and set out getting it for them the right ways. Can the same be said of the men at the helms? Clubs are neither empires, kingdoms nor emirates and you’re not a dictator. If you define the dream and pursue it passionately, everyone who falls out of place will gladly step aside and there won’t be too much of bad bloods.
Finally, Vichai gave his club a personality. During his time as chairman of Leicester City FC, the fan base of the relatively unknown club grew astronomically, not just abroad but inside Leicestershire and the United Kingdom. He marketed the club unconventionally as he embarked on activities that brought the club closer to the people. How many of our clubs here indulge in community service? We complain of empty stands in our league’s match venues but do we really think the locals have a connection with the clubs? If you keep yourself far from your spectators, they will definitely maintain their distance even if your gate is free.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is gone and the world may not have another who might inspire football and other spheres of life in the manner he did but we can learn a few of the good things he did and maybe run more successful football clubs.
The lessons from Vichai are captured in a book written by his son, Aiyawatt, titled “The fairy tale of Underfox”
Rest in peace, Vichai.