The owners of English soccer champions Leicester City say they will resist attempts by more glamorous rivals to lure away their title-winning players after an unlikely triumph that has captured the imagination of fans worldwide.
Duty-free magnate Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha became the first Thai owner of an English Premier League title-winning team on Monday (2 May), when the only club capable of catching them, Tottenham Hotspur, were held to a 2-2 draw by Chelsea.
Leicester’s journey from 5,000-1 outsiders to English champions has captivated soccer lovers everywhere, but also prompted predictions that the team could be broken up in the off-season as bigger clubs look to poach their best players.
“At the end of the day, it depends on the players but we will try everything we can to hold all the players,” said Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the club’s vice chairman and Vichai’s son, adding that there was interest in some of their players from European sides.
Aiyawatt and his father watched the decisive match at Stamford Bridge in a box at the stadium. He says they celebrated with lots of champagne and expects the party to continue on Saturday (7 May) when Leicester host Everton in their final league game of the season.
Srivaddhanaprabha has invited over 500 guests to the King Power stadium to celebrate his club lifting their first ever league title.
Next season, in addition to defending their Premier League title, Leicester – who were playing in the second tier of English football when Vichai’s King Power Group took over in 2010 – will compete in UEFA’s lucrative Champions League.
Leicester City have the chance of making anything between 150 million pounds (US $220 million) and 250 million pounds (US $365 million) from their sensational Premier League triumph, according to sports marketing experts.
Yet though the club known as the Foxes will gain this substantial windfall, they still have a long way to go to join the true big-money elite of world football.
The club that had never won the top-flight crown in its history will cash in through the 90 million pounds in prize money from the Premier League, and money from competing in Europe’s Champions League next season, as well as increased TV and match day revenue.
Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha says that he and his father are in it for the long haul and want to build on this early success.
“When we bought the club, on the first day, we had a press conference here and we talked about how much we love football and love sport and we will try our best,” he said.