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Mike Ashley and Stan Kroenke take note; there are lessons to be learned from how late Leicester owner Vichai Svriaddhanaprabha run his beloved football club.

The heart of a community was ripped out on October 27, 2018, when Vichai’s helicopter came crashing down, killing everyone on board. The public response to his death was that of despair and pain, for how he behaved in his role as the owner of Leicester football club made him such a popular figure.

He took over Leicester in 2010 and oversaw the club’s promotion to the Premier League in 2014. In one of the most sensational sporting stories in history, they won the title just two years later despite starting that season among the favourites to be relegated.

He treated his players unlike most bosses would, and in fact, his response to his team winning the league title was to buy each player a £105,000 BMW supercar out of his own pocket.

The Leicester City fans were also beneficiaries. They have been beneficiaries of free food, scarves, clappers, flags, beer and free away travel to matches, whilst he marked his 60th birthday by giving away 60 season tickets to fans.

For the people who are not football fans, he injected two million pounds towards a new children’s hospital, donated one million pounds to Leicester Universities medical department, and reportedly donated a further million pounds to the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Vichai done so much not to just better his football team but to better the entire community.

However, it is not the same at football clubs across the country as Newcastle United’s owner Mike Ashley has been at loggerheads with the club’s fans for years now.

He has openly stated his desire to sell the club and is reluctant to invest in the team. Every current Premier League team has broken their record transfer signing since 2013 except Newcastle, whose record signing is Michael Owen, who joined the club way back in 2006.

Ashley changed the stadium’s name from the famous St James Park to the Sports Direct Arena, and the Newcastle fans are left feeling as if the club is not a priority to him anymore.

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I caught up with Paul Rutter, 37, a die-hard Newcastle fan who is the Facebook administrator for Newcastle Fan TV, and his opinion on Ashley was damning.

“Numb, hatred and despair come to mind when I think about that man. He has drained the fan base of any hope for over a decade with lie after lie, broken promises, and all said behind a wall of PR. The joke decisions, spreadsheet champions, the disregard to cup competitions, the renaming of the stadium, the asset stripping, missing money, joke appointments and dismissals, the list goes on. We just want it to end and have our club back.”

The situation at Newcastle is a complete contrast to that of Leicester, and it is no coincidence that the way Ashley runs his club is the opposite of how Vichai ran his. Where Vichai brought the community together, Ashley is causing division and anger amongst fans.

There are also issues up the other side of the table at Arsenal. American billionaire Stan Kroenke has shown on multiple occasions that his main focus is to make a profit, much to the fans’ anger.

Kroenke became the majority shareholder in 2011 and has recently had a bid accepted by Alisher Usmanov to buy his 30% of the club. This means he would own 97%, and because he owns over 90%, he can force through the sale of the last 3% and become the sole owner.

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Shares that have been in families for generations will be ripped from their clutches with no remorse, and if you combine that with Arsenals slump down the table in recent years, then it is understandable why Kroenke and the fans do not see eye to eye.

19-year-old student Luke Henry is an Arsenal fan who wants Kroenke to leave the club sooner rather than later.

“He doesn’t care about the club at all; all he cares about is the money going in his pocket. That’s why he kept Arsene Wenger around for so long because he made him money. Last season was one of the worst I have ever experienced as a fan in terms of the fact I have never seen such a negative vibe at the club. The stadium was only half full towards the end of the season, and there was just no hope for us fans.”

Although Arsenal fans may be grateful that they are not in Newcastle’s situation, there is one thing the two clubs can agree on. Both sets of fans would have appreciated an owner like Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

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April 2024