By 90Min
March 28, 2018

It has become increasingly common for English clubs to build relationships with other teams in Europe. Chelsea have regularly sent young players out on loan to Vitesse Arnhem, for example, while the owners of Manchester City have built a portfolio of football clubs across the globe under the City Football Group umbrella (such as New York City FC of the MLS).

To a certain extent, Leicester City have replicated parts of each of those models in their relationship with Belgian club Oud-Heverlee Leuven. The two clubs are both owned by King Power International, a company based in Thailand which operates duty free shops in airports and a list a chain of hotels.

So how exactly are the two clubs linked, both on and off the field, and what are the benefits that Leicester City can reap from their relationship with the Belgian second division side?


Loan moves to develop young players

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Having close connections to a club in Europe can prove particularly useful when you want to send your young players out on loan to experience first-team football. It also provides them with a good chance to experience a new culture and a different style of play.

Leicester City currently have two young players on loan at OH Leuven. The first is Elliott Moore, who's several places in the league's Team of the Week award for his solid displays in the heart of the OH Leuven defence. He is also a popular figure in the dressing room and has already deputised as captain for a short spell this season.

Young Fox Kamal Sowah is the other. Leicester signed the 18-year-old Ghanaian midfielder on the final day of this season's January transfer window, but his signing flew under the radar (Leicester didn't even issue a statement) and immediately joined Leuven on an 18-month loan.

The teenager has featured on the bench a couple of times for the Belgian team, but manager Nigel Pearson (yep, the same Pearson who used to manage Leicester) thinks he is not ready for first team football just yet. He has, however, played for the club's under-19 side. If he establishes himself in Belgian football, it will boost his chances of earning a work permit to be able to play in the United Kingdom.


Commercial benefits

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Both clubs, particularly Leicester, can gain significant commercial benefits from the relationship between the two clubs. Even though Leicester City's official stance is that the clubs are not feeder clubs or sister clubs or anything of the sort, it's clear that the shared owners will have an interesting in building a strong relationship between the two clubs.

Leicester City and OH Leuven replica kits are on sale in the clubs' respective team shops, an intelligent commercial move as it boosts their respective overseas interests. The two clubs have also held fan exchange days, with a group of Leicester City fans going on a trip to watch OH Leuven before a group of Belgian fans traveled to take in a game at King Power Stadium.

Perhaps it's too early to tell if any other commercial benefits will arise between the two clubs, although the fan exchange days were regarded as a success, so it is likely that they could be repeated. The fact that King Power International now own two clubs will increase their popularity among football fans across Asia, as they look to expand their non-football businesses across their home continent.


A shared vision

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The Srivaddhanaprabhas have spoken of their desire to upgrade the club facilities in Leuven, while they have just announced plans for a new state of the art training ground in Leicestershire.

The Thai businessmen have a clear passion for football, and go about developing the infrastructure of their clubs in the correct way. Both clubs are sponsored by King Power, expanding exposure for their own brand while also showing their financial commitment to their teams.

Leicester City and OH Leuven are both striving for European football whilst building their facilities and playing squads sensibly. The owners are also keen to use both clubs to develop Thai football. 

Leicester host young Thai players in an international academy scheme. Several of those players, who finished their time at Leicester last season, now play for OH Leuven's under-19s side. Nigel Pearson has also recently signed Thai national goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan.


Familiar faces

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Leicester City and OH Leuven are both owned by King Power International. Leicester vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha is also the chairman of OH Leuven, while Leicester's CEO, Susan Whelan and Director of Football, Jon Rudkin, hold senior positions at both clubs.

Away from the boardroom, OH Leuven are currently managed by former Leicester boss, Nigel Pearson. The 54-year-old was sacked as Leicester boss due to differences with the board, however it seems that time is a good healer and Pearson has rekindled his relationship with the Srivaddhanaprabha family.

Pearson does not always get the credit he deserves for his work at Leicester. He built a solid infrastructure at the club, both on and off the pitch. He invested his time and energy into ensuring he had strong scouting, medical and sports science departments in the club. This ultimately led to success on the pitch and his work got Leicester City promoted to the Premier League for the first time in six years.

The Srivaddhanaprabhas recognised these qualities and were wise to re-employ him as they look to build a strong infrastructure at their Belgian outfit.

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