Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Citizenship

5 Beautiful Gestures That Made Leicester City's Owner a Local Hero

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Leicester City’s chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was loved for far more than his historic success in sport, and many are now remembering their favourite stories of his generosity. The world needs compassionate people that inspire others to act  — and Srivaddhanaprabha touched a whole city with his charity work. Take action here to help us leave the world in a better place than we found it.

When Andrea Bocelli sang “Nessun Dorma” next to Claudio Ranieri to celebrate Leicester City’s astonishing title victory in 2016, he was backed by bouquets of purple and white flowers, thousands of roaring blue fans at the King Power Stadium, and the applause of one man who was fundamental to achieving such spine-tingling success.

Today, the flowers outside Leicester City’s home ground are accompanied with scarfs, flags, and heartfelt messages of condolence — after it was confirmed that owner and chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was among those killed in a helicopter crash in the stadium car park this weekend.

As the city mourns the passing of a man revered for his impact both on and off the pitch, many are remembering and celebrating his generosity. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Prince William are among those who have paid their respects.

Take Action: Ask World Leaders to Ratify the Forced Labour Protocol

"The family are very, very popular with the people of Leicester,” Cliff Ginetta, Leicester City Supporters Club chairman, told the BBC. “They are loved by the Leicester public for what they have done to the football club and for what they have done for the city.”

"They have put the city on the map worldwide,” he added. “They've put millions of pounds into the club and lots and lots of money into local hospitals, children's care. At Christmas time, it's free mince pies and a drink — and that's the way they are."

“Srivaddhanaprabha” was a name bestowed on Vichai by the Thai royal family — and literally means "light of progressive glory." Here’s a few moments when the beloved Leicester City owner lived up to his title.

1. He gave £2 million to a local children’s hospital

After Leicester beat 5,000/1 odds to win the Premier League title, Srivaddhanaprabha donated £2 million to Leicester Hospitals Charity. The gift went towards a £30 million project that aimed to bring together Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) and Glenfield Hospital into one purpose-built space for children.

“It's very important for every fortunate thing that happens to you in your life, you must give back,” said Susan Whelan, the club’s chief executive, at an awards ceremony in May 2016. “That's really integral to everything we do.”

"This is through the Srivaddhanaprabha family, this is King Power, this is Leicester City Football Club saying thank you to the city of Leicester,” she added. "You have opened your hearts to us. We are so very privileged and pleased to be a part of that."

The hospital was reportedly “overwhelmed” by the gesture, and said it would put it in the "Premier League of children's hospitals".

2. He donated another £1 million to a city university hospital

It wasn’t long until he gave an additional £1 million to the University of Leicester to fund medical research and training at its city hospital.

Srivaddhanaprabha then donated a further £1 million to the LCFC Foxes Foundation and its chosen charities at an end-of-season dinner in May 2017 after squad players donated £60,000 worth of equipment to the children’s intensive care unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

3. He funded research into a rare genetic disorder

Just before his fourth birthday in 2011, Leicester fan Ellis was diagnosed with MECP2 syndrome, a rare chromosome disorder that can cause both intellectual and muscular disability. 

The doctors told his parents that it was unlikely he would ever walk or talk — and would face daily seizures from epilepsy.

Read More: 5 Former Refugees Who Kicked Ass in the World Cup

His family then dedicated themselves to funding the fight to research a cure. They raised thousands with sponsored cycles to football matches around the country, and in 2014 Srivaddhanaprabha personally donated £22,000, according to Sky News.

Richard Page, Ellis’ father, wrote that the donation had actually been £44,000 — and it helped push their “Text Ellis” fundraising target well over the £100,000 mark.

Leicester players then gave away signed shirts from the season they were promoted to the Premier League, to help raise further funds at an auction.

4. He celebrated his 60th birthday with free beer for fans

When Leicester lost 2-1 at home to Newcastle in April this year, it might have seemed strange that some fans still retained a sense of jubilation. In fact, it was Srivaddhanaprabha’s 60th birthday — and he wanted to share it with all the club’s supporters at the ground.

So he offered a free Singha beer — originating from the chairman’s native Thailand — to every home fan in the 32,000 capacity stadium aged 18 and over. And then he renewed 60 season tickets at random — worth hundreds of pounds each — for some lucky supporters at half time.

And his birthday party? Days before the game, a local hospital hosted a teddy bear’s picnic for sick children with cake, entertainment, and games along with players Kasper Schmeichel, Wilfred Ndidi, and Kelechi Iheanacho.

He gave free beer (and a pie!) to every fan on his birthday the previous year, too — and the year before that.

5. He gave free BMWs to every player

But no football fan will ever forget the season that ended with the ”greatest sporting story”: a Premier League trophy, and Andrea Bocelli garbed in a Leicester City shirt.

And Srivaddhanaprabha — the fourth-wealthiest man in Thailand — drove the celebrations in the only way he knows how: gifting blue BMW i8’s worth £100,000 each to 19 players in the squad. Only four players didn’t receive a car: N’Golo Kante and Joe Dodoo transferred to Chelsea and Rangers respectively, while Andrej Kramaric and Yohan Benalouane were ineligible for a winners medal after just six appearances between them.

Read More: The England Squad Have Donated Their Match Earnings to Charity for Over a Decade

It might not exactly be helping those in need. But perhaps a quote from the man himself better serves to highlight the heart in the gesture.

“Our spirit exists because of the love we share for each other and the energy it helps to create, both on and off the pitch,” he said after lifting the trophy. “And in the years to come it will continue to be our greatest asset.”

That spirit indelibly remains. But for a local hero who gave a city he loved so much to remember — it’s time to say goodbye.