Dom Howson column: Rivalry between two Thai-owned clubs set to intensify

Dejphon Chansiri
Dejphon Chansiri
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As soon as the Football League fixtures for the 2015/16 season were released last June, Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri wasted no time in pencilling their trip to Reading into his diary.

You see a clash against the Royals is no ordinary fixture for Chansiri and his associates. It has taken on added significance. Why? Because Wednesday and Reading are the only two Thai-owned Championship clubs.

Chansiri’s father, Kraisorn, founded the Thai Union Frozen Group (TUF), the world’s largest producer of tuna as well as one of the biggest worldwide general seafood producers, along with Cheng Niruttinanon.

Kraisorn Chansiri and Cheng Niruttinanon are childhood friends and set-up the business in 1977.

Now their sons are running two English football clubs and competing against each other.

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It was nearly a year ago Dejphon, through his own funds, purchased Wednesday for £37.5m and confirmed that the club are now debt free with no loan charges held against Hillsborough Stadium. He has bankrolled a big recruitment drive, made an inspired decision to appoint little-known Portuguese coach Carlos Carvalhal as boss and pumped in millions of pounds into improving the infrastructure of the club.

Narin, who owns shares in TUF, is Reading’s majority shareholder. His Thai consortium took control at the Madejski Stadium in September 2014 when the club was in financial meltdown. The takeover steadied the ship, saving the Royals from crippling debts. Now they are looking up rather than down.

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But on the pitch, Wednesday have certainly out-performed Reading this season. Eleven points and eight places separate the two teams. For Reading, languishing in the bottom half of the table, to make a late play-off charge, Brian McDermott’s side will have to go on one heck of a run in the final three and a half months of the campaign.

One thing is for certain, the friendship between the two families will, temporarily, be put on hold tomorrow. Simmering beneath the surface, there is a fierce competitive rivalry. They want to outdo each other. Earlier this week, one Wednesday source told me: “It is the biggest game of the season.”

It is far from a local derby, but there are bragging rights up for grabs at boardroom level.

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