COUNCILLORS in Leicester have voted unanimously to back proposals to award the Honorary Freedom of the City to Leicester City Football Club (LCFC).
The accolade is the highest civic honour the council can bestow and recognises the contribution that recipients have made to the City of Leicester.
The council is to grant the freedom of the city to the club in recognition of the honour and distinction it has brought to Leicester as a result of its sporting achievements, and in appreciation of its commitment to local communities.
The award is governed by legislation and required the approval of the full council, which was given at a special meeting on 23 February.
Councillors also gave their unanimous backing to the introduction of a new civic honour – The City of Leicester Award – and to making the first recipients LCFC chairman Khun Aiyawatt Srivaddhanapraba, and his late father and former chairman Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
The City of Leicester Award will recognise individuals whose outstanding achievements have had a positive and wide-reaching impact on the city, and who have been a source of inspiration to its residents.
Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “The Honorary Freedom of the City is the highest award our city can give, and it is entirely fitting that it be given to LCFC for the honour and distinction it has brought to the city.
“The club’s against-the-odds Premier League title win was a chapter in sporting history that the whole city can be proud of, and its continued achievements have raised the profile of Leicester across the globe in a way that has helped the city find renewed pride in itself.
“Sporting achievements and trophies aside, the club has shown a continued commitment to sports development within our local communities, and it is an inspiration to its fans and to the people of Leicester.
“It is the personal contribution of the late Khun Vichai, and the commitment he showed to Leicester that continues under the leadership of his son, Khun Aiyawatt, that we want to acknowledge with our new award.
“I'm delighted that our first City of Leicester Award will be made to LCFC chairman Khun Aiyawatt Srivaddhanapraba, and his late father and former chairman Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.”
Lord Mayor of Leicester, Councillor Deepak Bajaj said: “I am immensely proud that we will be conferring the Freedom of the City to Leicester City Football Club after their amazing sporting successes, which have been so well received not only here in Leicester, but across the world.
“Much of their success is as a result of the dedication and commitment made by both their former and current chairman and I am honoured to be recognising their achievements with the newly created City of Leicester Award.”
Recipients of the City of Leicester Award will have contributed to the educational, cultural, civic or economic life of the city, or through their achievements gained the city wider recognition. Unlike the freedom of the city award, this new civic honour is for individuals only and can be awarded posthumously.
Khun Vichai became Chairman of LCFC in 2010, following its takeover by a Thai-led consortium which he led. He made significant investments in the club which saw them return to the Premier League in 2013/14 as the Championship title winners. The club then went on to achieve its historic Premier League title win in 2015/16, despite pre-season odds of 5,000/1.
During his time as chairman, Khun Vichai invested in both the club and the local community, personally donating more than £4 million to different causes. Sadly, on Saturday 27 October 2018, he died in a helicopter accident, alongside four others, outside King Power Stadium.
The Foxes Foundation, formed in 2011/12 was renamed The Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Foundation in Khun Vichai’s honour, and it continues to provide significant support for local charities.
His son Khun Aiyawatt, vowed to continue his father’s legacy, and in May 2021, the club had its first FA Cup success. This means LCFC has now won every major honour in English football - the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup. Another win followed when the FA Community Shield was secured in August 2021.
The club has also enjoyed success with the women’s team, which won the Women's Championship in April 2021, sealing promotion to the FA Women's Super League in the process.
Alongside the work of the foundation, the club makes an invaluable contribution to the city through the Leicester City Football Club Community Trust, where it uses football to inspire individuals to reach their full potential.
Photo caption left to right: LCFC chairman Khun Aiyawatt Srivaddhanapraba, and his late father and former chairman Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.”
Photo credit: Leicester City Football Club