Leicester City will consider renaming their stadium after Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, sources within the club have said.
The 60-year-old was tragically killed in a helicopter crash on Saturday. The Leicester chairman was one of five passengers who lost their lives following an accident after take off from the centre circle following the 1-1 draw with West Ham United.
Two members of Vichai’s staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, also died along with pilot Eric Swaffer and co-pilot Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
Vichai’s son Aiyawatt, who is the club’s vice-chairman, is currently in Leicester paying his respects and will hold talks with chief executive Susan Whelan later this week about how best to memorialise his father. He is also expected to take over as chairman on an interim basis, according to the sources.
Aiyawatt, along with other senior members of the King Power Group, are in favour of renaming the King Power Stadium, the Khun Vichai Stadium. The club is also due to build a new $100 million training facility that will bear his name. The complex will boast a 500-seater stadium and 12 training pitches.
“What is important now is to give the Srivaddhanaprabha, King Power and Leicester City family time to grieve,” a King Power spokesperson said. “In due course we will release memorial details and are touched by the public outpouring of support and condolences.
“The King Power Stadium is already a celebration of Khun Vichai’s successful business and we would be open, with family, club and supporter consultation, to discussing a name change in Khun Vichai’s honour. We are aware of petitions seeking this type of change as well as for a statue at the club and will discuss all these wishes with the Srivaddhanaprabha family and the football club.”
Vichai’s close bond with the community in Leicester was reflected in the tributes to the owner who bankrolled the team’s return to the Premier League in 2014 and the improbable title triumph.
“The outpouring of grief is a testament to how many people’s lives were touched by those on board,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said.
The fan petition to change the stadium name has over 1,000 signatures as of Monday evening in the U.K., while the one seeking a statue has close to 20,000.
A striking photo of Kung Vichai is the current centrepiece of a moving memorial area outside the stadium where thousands of fans have left flowers and messages. Leicester players visited the growing memorial to the team’s owner outside the stadium on Monday and walked around the perimeter of jerseys, scarves and flowers that has formed at the King Power Stadium.
Aiyawatt and his mother, Aimon, also visited the site on Monday and were applauded by fans as they laid a wreath at the memorial, where a mural of Vichai is likely to remain permanently.
Khun Vichai’s seat in the director’s box may also be left empty between now and the end of the season, with one senior King Power official suggesting it could be painted red, to both stand out amongst a stadium full of blue and because it was Khun Vichai’s lucky colour.
Having taken over in 2010, Leicester’s owner spearheaded the move to bring back a red away kit in 2014-2015 and again in 2016-2017 for their Champions League debut season.
Leicester’s Carabao Cup match with Southampton has been postponed and Saturday’s away match with Cardiff City remains in doubt. The club will seek permission from the Premier League to wear black armbands and potentially training tops to enter the field, each with the No. 60 (Khun Vichai’s age) and the hashtag #TheBoss on the back.
A minute’s silence will also take place before Leicester’s next match, which could be at home to Burnley on Oct. 11 if the Cardiff match is postponed.
Many fans have confirmed they plan to do a minute’s applause during the 60th minute of all of Leicester’s games between now and the end the season. Some have also suggested remaining silent until the 60th minute against Burnley before erupting into a round of applause.
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