William and Kate say it with flowers in tribute to Leicester City chief
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made an emotional pilgrimage to pay tribute to Leicester City’s owner, following in the footsteps of thousands of the football club’s fans.
William and Kate were left visibly moved at the start of their visit to the city which was united in grief following the helicopter crash which claimed the life of billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others, also remembered by the couple.
After sharing a few minutes with the owner’s family, his son Aiyawatt, wife Aimon and daughter Aroonroong, the Cambridges left a bouquet of flowers and a condolence card among a sea of other floral tributes close to the crash site.
During their time at the club they met charities and fans who benefited from Vichai’s generosity and William told one charity boss “he was the gel, the glue of the community”.
He added: “If only more owners took his example of how to benefit the community, be involved”.
The duke, who is president of the FA, had known the Leicester City owner over the past five years and had caught up with him at Kensington Palace, to discuss his charity work and football, just a few weeks before the crash in October.
The other four victims were club employees Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz, who was also a professional pilot.
In a speech to senior officials from the club, including the club’s star striker and England forward Jamie Vardy, William highlighted Leicester City’s incredible Premier League triumph.
He said: “In 2016, this football club did something that should have been impossible.
“Against odds that are now the stuff of legend, you took on the Goliaths and superstars of the world’s most famous football league.
“In powering past them all to win the title, you wrote the best underdog story in the history of modern sport.
“And when the man that led this club to victory died so tragically, the people of this city revealed with their outpouring of admiration, that they too shared much of the character that was so central to who Vichai was.
“In a time when our football clubs have become huge global enterprises, you came out to thank Vichai for making the fans the true owners of this club.
“And you thanked him for investing the rewards of success in the future of Leicester City.”
“You showed that community mattered to him and to you all.”
William, a former air ambulance helicopter pilot, revealed he had flown in the past with Mr Swaffer, describing the experience as a “privilege”.
Even though he no longer flies professionally the duke still takes to the skies to keep up his flying hours, and flew with Mr Swaffer a few months before the crash.
After leaving their floral tribute William and Kate met some of the dozens of volunteers who helped to move the floral tributes from outside the football club’s stadium to a nearby site.
Leicester City season ticket holder Kev Butler, 51, said: “There are clubs with load and loads of money but it’s not about money, it’s about how you treat the fans, how you look after the fans, so these people have been superb.”
He and former colleague Paul Groves, 67, showed the duchess their commemorative black and white scarves, which read Mr Chairman.
Mr Butler said about Kate: “She was just sharing the compassion with everyone.
“She seemed to feel it, she looked quite emotional, she felt what we were feeling.”