I therefore took real delight in Leicester City's stunning and barely believable run in last year's Premiership title race. After all, here was a team a bit like Sunderland - a proud history, solid and long-suffering supporters, moving quite regularly backwards and forwards between the top two tiers of English football and without the zillions of overseas cash being enjoyed by the likes of Man City and Chelsea. I almost enjoyed Leicester's victory as a sort of proxy for what I would have liked Sunderland to do against odds of 5,000 to 1.
I was therefore as shocked as anyone last night at the news of Claudio Ranieri's sacking. Words such as "brutal" and "cruel" have been used by pundits and commentators to describe it, and in many ways it is both of those things. Depriving a person of his or her livelihood should never be done lightly, and I really don’t think that the board at Leicester City will have removed Mr Ranieri without much soul-searching and agonising, as well as legal advice and analysis of the unpalatable financial consequences of a fall from the riches of the Premiership.
However, Leicester City Football Club Limited (company registration number 04593477 and having its registered office at King Power Stadium, Filbert Way, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE2 7FL) is a UK registered company like any other. According to Companies House it has a secretary and a board of six directors. Those six directors are subject to the Companies Act 2006 like the board of directors of any UK company, and under Section 175 of the Act, one of the various legal obligations on each director is to "act in the way he considers, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole, and in doing so have regard (amongst other matters) to (a) the likely consequences of any decision in the long term, (b) the interests of the company's employees…"
This is all sensible and logical and no-one could argue with the view that the directors of a company should be promoting its success and considering the long-term consequences of their decisions. I'm pretty sure that the six directors of UK company number 04593477 will have considered in detail whether they believe Mr Ranieri can keep Leicester in the Premiership and will sadly and reluctantly have come to the conclusion that he can't. That’s a difficult and subjective decision, but if they have acted in good faith and that is their genuinely-held belief, then they can really only come to one decision. No-one will ever know whether Claudio Ranieri would have helped Leicester to avoid the dreaded drop, and the next three months will tell us whether his successor is able to do so. However, by having acted in accordance with their legal obligations in the Companies Act 2006, they can at least say hand on heart that they have done the right thing, even if the outcome appears to be brutal and cruel.
I genuinely hope that Leicester, along with Sunderland, both stay in the Premier League this year. Apart from anything else it would be too much for me to bear to have to watch us going down and passing Newcastle coming back up at the same time. However, no matter how things pan out, I hope that Claudio Ranieri will be able to walk into any pub in Leicester for the rest of his life and have his drinks bought for him all evening by grateful Foxes who had the night of their lives on 2 May 2016. I don’t support Leicester but I’d like to buy the man a pint.