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I doubt there’s a happier travel retailer in the world this weekend than King Power International Group Senior Executive Vice President Susan Whelan (above), but her state of mind has nothing whatsoever to do with trading results.
No, folks, we’re talking football, English football to be precise. Susan is CEO of Leicester City Football Club, owned by a Thai consortium led by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (formerly Vichai Raksriaksorn), Chairman of King Power.
I had the pleasure of attending Wednesday’s night’s game against Sheffield Friday… sorry, Friday night’s game against Sheffield Wednesday (the after match celebrations are still leaving me feeling blurred), which Leicester (known locally as the ‘Foxes’) won 2-1 to put them on the brink of promotion to the Premiership. There they will play powerhouses of the game such as Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea and Crystal Palace.
It was a mighty night but the job of promotion was not yet done.
Although enjoying a formidable lead at the top of the table over its nearest rivals (Burnley, Queen’s Park Rangers and Derby County), the Foxes needed to either secure another two points in their remaining six games to guarantee promotion or hope that QPR or Derby County dropped points (only the top two teams gain automatic promotion).
They didn’t have to wait long. On Saturday both QPR and Derby lost, meaning the Foxes are already booked into the 7-star hotel that is the Premiership next year. Now the only question is whether they will go up as Champions (which they should, as they currently enjoy a nine-point advantage over nearest rivals Burnley with only six games left).
I have no doubt about that. These urban Foxes are on the run, unstoppable, running free. Susan’s double role as a successful travel retail boss and a (rare) female football chief should be lauded throughout our industry. Besides her professionalism and capability, the fact that she’s such an understated and generous individual just adds further to what she has achieved.
For Khun Vichai, it’s rich reward for patience and perseverance in his investment and in his team, a welcome contrast to the knee-jerkingly, short-term approach of many owners.
C’mon you Foxes, now run liberated and joyously, gloriously wild for a few more weeks until the title of Champions is rightly yours.
Footnote: Friday’s game was also notable for a visit en masse from Irish football club Greystones United which, through well-known travel retail industry character Barry Geoghegan, has forged a wonderful sister club relationship with the Foxes – one that should see many young Greystones talents make it into the big time in years to come.
I’ll let Barry take up the story: “We are the second-biggest football club in Ireland with over 700 members. There were 66 club members over for the BIG game on Friday night, including players, coaches, staff and parents.
“The fact that we were all there when the Foxes got the points that they (as it turned out yesterday based on the Derby and QPR results) needed to confirm promotion makes it even more special. All at Greystones have such high regard for Susan, who is such a nice leader of the club.”
[United as one (left to right): Greystones’ Director of Football Andy O Hara, Child Protection Officer /Registrar Michele Healy and Chairman John O’Neil with Barry Geoghegan]
[Susan Whelan and partner Robbie Gill (left) join the Greystones team in a show of Anglo-Irish solidarity]
[An Irish rose between two thorns: Susan Whelan with Martin Moodie and Barry Geoghegan]
[Barry Geoghegan and rising footballing star, son Sean, get on to the hallowed King Power Stadium turf the day after the Wednesday result (which should make it a Thursday, right, so how come it was a Saturday? – Ed). The Greystones youngsters played some of the Leicester City academy teams and watched the latter’s Under 16s and Under 18 s play Liverpool]