We all mourn the horrible news that has come from Leicestershire today. Any death in Football is a loss, but such a terrible and sudden way to go comes as a shock that is particularly difficult to take. Our immediate thoughts go to the friends and family of Mr Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (former Chairman of Leicester City Football Club), Nursara Suknamai, Kaveporn Punpare, Izabela Roza Lechowicz and pilot Eric Swaffer; all lost in the helicopter accident. The resulting grief will be tangible in the East Midlands, the city of Leicester and, of course, Leicester City Football Club for several years, perhaps even decades, to come.
Legally the club will be in safe hands in the aftermath of the accident. Mr Srivaddhanaprabha will have stipulated in a will as to how the ownership of the club will transition in the event of his death, ditto his business empire, the King Power International Group. A change of ownership and stewardship will lead to changes in the internal culture of the club (beyond the obvious heartbreak many will be feeling), but fans needn’t worry too much about the short-term ownership situation. It doesn’t make what has happened okay, nor does it make the pain any easier to deal with, but it makes moving forward a little easier than it could otherwise have been.
The lasting effects of this tragedy will be social and personal. Mr Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha certainly was highly regarded by many; such a popular owner figure is unusual in British Football. Part of the affection so many individuals have for him is understandable thanks to the success the club has experienced under his ownership, but even before Leicester City’s Premier League triumph, Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s conduct and actions made him a respected and loved owner.
Beyond the immediate minutes of silence, social media tributes and fan manifestations we shall see this week, respects are likely to be made in the form of a statue made in Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s honour close and probably next to the King Power Stadium. Next season’s Leicester City kit may feature an element of black alongside the familiar blue. And public edifices and roads across Leicestershire may be possibly be named in his honour. Yet while mourners in the United Kingdom will undoubtedly openly pay their respects, back in Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s home country of Thailand, the mourning will last a lot longer.
Thai culture dictates that long periods of mourning should be observed by the public whenever high-profile individuals die. In the case of royal deaths, the mourning lasts years. The above photo shows the Ubon UMT United 2017 home jersey that sported a black band on the left arm alongside the club’s colours of white and gold; an addition that was made in response to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death toward the end of 2016. 2 full years of mourning were officially declared in response to the loss of the world’s longest serving monarch at the time.
Mr Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s position in Thai society is not on the same level as that of any member of the Thai Royal Family. Thus, the country will not declare two years of national mourning following his demise. But being not only the formerly fourth wealthiest individual in the whole country, but also the man who astonished the sporting community by climbing to the top of the Premier League with a club that was never supposed to succeed, his loss will be publicly and formally acknowledged across the Kingdom of Thailand in an extended period of national mourning.
Our thoughts are with anybody grieving at this moment.