Breaking The Mould – Leicester’s Thai Owners

Leicester City Football Club

We are now in the fifth year since Leicester’s Thai owners Vichai Raksriaksorn and his son Aiyawatt took over from Milan Mandaric and it is safe to say a lot of Leicester fans were left wondering about where the new owners could take us.

Foreign owners in English football have often had a bad reputation and still do thanks in part to owners such as Cardiff’s Vincent Tan, who has left the Wales side bewildered with his changes at times, Randy Lerner at Aston Villa, who has turned a once proud club into shambles of a side and Leeds United’s Massimo Cellino who has fired numerous managers in his short time in charge.

There are exceptions of course, and they tend to come at the Premier League big boys like Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal but further down the league we take a look at Leicester’s owners and how they have learnt the football industry well after making a few initial mistakes early on in their ownership.

The King Power Group headed by the Thai owners got off to an audacious start bringing in former England manager Sven Goren Eriksson as boss and the feeling amongst the fans was buoyant with fans expecting success and quickly.

Success did not materialize for Sven and many pundits put it down to his lack of knowledge of the Championship. Players came in on high wages and in truth it just did not work out for the Swede. There was a definitive split between the fans on whether to persevere with Sven or sack him and the Thai owners would eventually decide to sack Sven.

Whether this was the right decision at the time, was debatable but you can look to what has been achieved by the Foxes since to ascertain that the owners made the right decision.

Where the Leicester owners have been different to other foreign owners, is in their ability to let the football side of the business take care of itself without the need to get involved. Their backing of new manager Nigel Pearson in the early days of his second spell in charge was a welcome change of direction to what was their possible interference during Sven’s reign in charge.

Having a manager like Nigel Pearson who is experienced in English conditions, was arguably the best decision they have made as the former Hull manager would not have taken favourably to interference from the Thai owners.

Their backing of Pearson on two fronts has also been a staple of their success. The first being the backing they gave to the Foxes manager when results weren’t going their way at times and not listening to a section of the fans who thought Leicester would be better under a different boss. As you can see with most successful sides, they can at times take a while to settle but keeping to a plan will in most cases lead to success.

The second impressive staple of the Thai’s success as owners is their backing in the transfer market which is certainly more apparent this season as a Premier League side. They have broken their transfer record not once but twice, as well as adding more depth to the squad.

Again there are those that argue Pearson should not still be in charge as the club find themselves bottom of the Premier League but they are still in touch and it seems the owners are aware of how difficult it will be to stay in the league this year and are happy to back the Foxes manager despite possible relegation.

Whatever decisions the owners come to in both the short term and the long term will be in the best interests of the club. The profile the owners have created abroad, particularly in Asia, will also benefit the club and though relegation is a possibility, the club will be in an excellent position to return at the first attempt and with more experience of what to expect in particular.

Leicester fans will forever be indebted to both Vichai and Aiyawatt for the sound financial footing they are putting Leicester on the path too. The purchase of the stadium nearly ten years after administration, shows the commitment to the club and whatever happens in the future, the Foxes fans will know they have owners who will join them on a great journey.

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