In a nightmare end to Leicester City’s fairytale, the creator of a sporting miracle, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, is reportedly killed in a helicopter crash
English football has endured blacker days than Saturday October 28th, but few when the blows came as frequently and as heavily.
When a helicopter crashed outside the King Power Stadium after Leicester City’s game with West Ham fans were still digesting the news that former England manager Glenn Hoddle was fighting for his life and that a fellow supporter had died after attending the match between Brighton and Wolves at The Amex Stadium.
One of the most naturally gifted players England ever produced, Hoddle, on his 61st birthday, was at the BT Sport Studios in London when he collapsed. He was reportedly “close to death” but was saved by a cameraman who knew how to use the studio’s defibrillator. He was later said to be “responding well” to treatment and the news sparked an outpouring of support from colleagues, fans and former team mates, such as Micky Hazard, who described his one-time midfield partner as his “hero.”
At Brighton a fan described only as “elderly” was taken ill before kick-off and rushed to a local hospital where he passed away. Messages of condolence from supporters of rival clubs poured in, but the biggest shock came at 8:38pm when the first reports came in from Leicester.
Leicester City’s owner killed in helicopter crash
Multiple agencies reported that City’s owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was on board the helicopter when it came down but it wasn’t for 24 hours until the news was confirmed. A BBC report speculating that manager Claude Puel may have been on board proved to be false.
Srivaddhanaprabha, the architect of Leicester’s astonishing Premier League win in 2015-16, isn’t like most owners. People like him. He bought Leicester for £39 million in 2010 and in a league packed with hugely unpopular proprietors like Newcastle’s Mike Ashley and the Glazer family at Old Trafford, he set about winning over the fan base by providing free beer and doughnuts for supporters and subsidising travel to away matches.
In 2014, when Leicester were promoted to the Premier League, he promised to spend £180 million on getting the team into the top five.
The claim was greeted with almost universal scepticism, mainly because it sounded identical to any number of empty promises made by owners of rival clubs in the past: just two years beforehand City’s local rivals were taken over by Fawaz Al Hasawi, who at one point claimed Billy Davies, one of his many managers, would become Nottingham’s answer to Alex Ferguson.
Srivaddhanaprabha didn’t spend £180 million on getting Leicester into the top five. He spent £60 million and won them the title.
A miracle man for Leicester City
Unlike Mike Ashley, who eschews the media while still somehow remaining almost permanently in its sights,
doesn’t court publicity and his habit of flying to and from matches in a blue helicopter that lands on the pitch is a rare theatrical flourish.
BT Sport were still broadcasting from the King Power Stadium yesterday when news of the crash emerged. Their BT Sport Score programme, which Hoddle had due to appear on, had been cancelled but presenter Jake Humphrey now found himself having to break the news of a possible tragedy for the second time in a day. He and everyone else on the programme did well to maintain their composure.
We don’t yet know how the story at Leicester will end, but there was at least good news regarding Hoddle on Sunday afternoon.
His family issued a statement saying: “Glenn remains in a serious condition in hospital after suffering a heart attack yesterday. He continues to respond well to treatment. “The family are grateful to everyone in the football family – and beyond – that have sent kind messages of support, they are very much appreciated.”