ON Monday night, Leicester City finally won an unlikely Premier League title and there is a slight Clare link to the story.
The club’s chief executive, Susan Whelan, once worked for Shannon-based Aer Rianta International (ARI), going on to work in its stores in Russia and Thailand, before becoming involved with the new Premier League champions.
Former director of Shannon Airport, Liam Skelly was also first director general of ARI and the Scariff resident remembers the Dublin woman’s time with the company.
“ARI was operated in Shannon so she came there and then went to Moscow and worked there. Eventually, we got a contract to operate Duty Free in Thailand and she went out there. She was a buyer for perfumes and that,” he explained.
After ARI finished business in Thailand, Ms Whelan left the company. “Our contract ended and Susan decided to stay on. The King Powers are from Thailand. King Powers got the contract in the airport in Bangkok and, at some stage, they bought Leicester. Susan was sent to the UK and she is with the club now,” Mr Skelly continued.
He found her to be a very capable individual. “She was charming and quite an efficient lady. She wasn’t a bit pushy but she would do her stuff and wouldn’t give way to anyone.”
Mr Skelly isn’t surprised that she has succeeded in soccer, despite having a very limited knowledge of the game before getting involved with Leicester. “She’d be brilliant at all the financial aspects of soccer, expanding the range of goods that’d go with soccer and thinking up new ones.”
Dealing with a level of success that is totally unexpected can be very challenging but he feels she will cope with it very well. “I don’t think even this will phase her, what they’ve done. She will still stay the same Susan.”
Mr Skelly said he was watching the Chelsea-Spurs game on Monday night but switched off at half-time, with the visitors two ahead. Like millions of others, he was delighted with the final result, a 2-2 draw, which ended Tottenham’s title challenge.
While the appointment of Claudio Ranieri was criticised last year, Ms Whelan immediately insisted he was the man for the job, something that has since been proven. “We went through a very extensive recruitment process, in terms of looking at the managers who were available. That is our job and responsibility as a board, to ensure the decision we were making was a very good long-term choice.It became very clear almost immediately that Claudio was our number one target,” she said, as the Italian was unveiled last summer.
In March, the club announced its most successful financial results ever, showing pre-tax profits of €26.4 million. Ms Whelan said the club are currently in a very strong position. “At a time when the club is competing in the upper reaches of the Premier League table, it has been very important for us to consolidate the firm foundations we have put in place over the last five seasons and to ensure that we have the appropriate structures in place for the continued growth and long-term development of the club.
“This has put Leicester City in a very strong position to move forward, and our commitment to delivering success on a continuous basis is foremost in our planning. We know what the club is capable of and we will work with diligence and purpose to ensure that Leicester City will achieve success and stability and be a proud representative of its community and city.”
By Owen Ryan