Broadly speaking, what football fans want from their owners (and players) is that they love the club as much as they do.
That’s why Chelsea fans are wary of Roman Abramovich despite the huge success the team have enjoyed under his ownership. It’s why Arsenal fans haven’t warmed to “silent” Stan Kroenke, why Manchester United fans dislike the Glazer family, why Newcastle fans are angry at Mike Ashley. And it’s why Leicester fans are distraught at the death of their Thai owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, in a helicopter crash following their home game on Saturday.
It’s not just how much owners put into the club (or take out) in cash terms. It’s not just a matter of whether the club advance under their reign (or decline). Those things matter, of course, but are not the bottom line. It’s whether they really seem to have the best interests of the club at heart. Do they stick with the team through thick and thin, or drift in and out as it suits them. Do they capriciously sack managers after a few disappointing results. Or, even worse, do they allow a failing management to carry on indefinitely because of their indifference.
Do they attend the games and seem to care what happens. In other words, do they act like fans of the team or do they seem to treat the club as another business to be milked of money, or even just a multi-million pound plaything.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha passed every test with honours. He bought Leicester when they were languishing in the third tier. He invested money wisely, reinvigorated the club, contributed to the community and endeared himself to the fans. He made executive decisions that some might question but they were never arrogant, lazy or blind.
His reign “made possible the impossible”, as many have said in the last few days. Leicester winning the Premier League in 2016 stands as one of the most incredible stories in the history of sport. Arguably the greatest upset ever, indisputably an utterly incredible achievement.
When I first heard the name of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, I thought it was going to be difficult for us English to remember. Now it’s impossible to forget.