Leicester City Football Club’s 2015/16 Premier League title triumph has gone down in sporting history as one of, if not, the biggest underdog success story ever. Approaching the season at 5000/1, nobody genuinely predicted that Leicester could win such a momentous trophy, even at the final matches when it seemed increasing more likely; it still felt like a long and wild dream. People from across the world will forever remember their road to success, defeating many of ‘top’ clubs and producing some of the most entertaining matches for their fans at the King Power Stadium. Claudio Ranieri and his team have set a benchmark for underdogs in football and other sports, some call it ‘The Leicester City Effect’.
The achievement itself was supported and applauded by all football professionals and fans, none more so than the habitants of the city of Leicester. Posing a population of only 333,000 people, they are most well known their rugby and exceptional cheeses. Football was never their strongest point. The season before, LCFC were battling in the relegation scrap, roll the clocks forward a year and they are crowned the champions of England. It still sounds surreal to say. The club’s top goalscorer for the season and fans favourite, Jamie Vardy, has become an Internet sensation with fans worldwide, so much so that he is due to feature in a TV programme illustrating his unbelievable journey as a player. More recently it was announced that he was the most popular player printed on England jerseys at the Euros, another great achievement for a man who played non-league football so long ago. Zero to hero in a matter of 10 incredible months.
The club’s story has dominated social media, news headlines and TV programmes. People who previously had no interest in Leicester or football for that matter, became engrossed in their success and were jeering them on right the way through to the end. It united the world of football, I doubt there was one person out there who was disappointed to see the Foxes lift the trophy, maybe a few envious Tottenham supporters but that’s understandable. With success comes heavy financial reward in the English game.
The club quickly became highly attractive to global investors as they neared the crowing of the trophy. Leicester received more TV coverage than any other club, which would explain why some of the biggest companies would want their name displayed on everything and anything they possibly could. Opportunities for the club to grow as a brand internationally were coming at them left, right and centre but commendably the club’s owners never failed to look after their fans in such exciting times. Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, City’s owner gave out free beer and donuts on his birthday to celebrate with the fans as a thank you for their support throughout the season. A small act of generosity and kindness, which went down a treat with the fans.
It was an absorbing and thrilling season, one that will probably not be replicated for a very long time. However, the achievement will be talked about for generations to come and not just in the context of football. It has inspired people from all sporting levels and backgrounds. A new era for the underdog was born. Danny Willett winning the 2016 Masters, Wales reaching the semi-finals of the Euro 2016 and even Sam Querrey knocking the unstoppable Novak Djokovic out of Wimbledon, these are all prime examples of underdogs who haven’t been phased by people doubting their capabilities and actually going out with the same intention as any other competitor, to win.
It would seem that the major difference that separates big clubs from the smaller clubs, is money, not necessarily ability or skill, as Leicester primly showcased. Their average starting 11 was valued at £23 million; a mere 10% of the average starting 11 at previous years champions Chelsea. Passion and determination are proving to be the most vital and sought after ingredients to achieve success across a variety of sports of late. Football, golf or tennis, the ability gap between teams and individuals is narrowing, making it even more difficult to predict who is going to win the next major competition. Who knows? In 2 years we might see Scotland lift the World Cup.