Leicester City ambassador Alan Birchenall collapses at awards night
Leicester City club ambassador Alan Birchenall is in a stable condition after he suffered a cardiac arrest at an awards ceremony.
"The Birch", 71, a former Foxes player, was making a presentation at the Leicester Mercury Sports Awards when he collapsed on Thursday evening.
BBC Radio Leicester's Martin Ballard said about 500 people remained silent as he was treated by medical staff.
The use of a defibrillator saved his life, his doctor has confirmed.
Mr Birchenall, who is being cared for at Glenfield specialist heart hospital, helped raise money in 2015 for defibrillators to be used at 20 Leicestershire schools.
Earlier, he posted a message on his Facebook page thanking people for their "overwhelming" support.
He said he hoped to have an operation on Saturday and to be out of hospital next week.
Mr Birchenall collapsed when making a presentation for the Club of the Year award.
Seven of 15 awards were handed out at the ceremony, held at Leicester Tigers' Welford Road stadium, before the event was abandoned.
Mr Ballard said: "Alan Birchenall joked about his beard and said to Claudio Ranieri [Leicester City manager]: 'You have to be good to get this award'.
"Then, he turned and collapsed at the back of the presentation stage.
"After a couple of minutes the audience realised the severity of the situation and up to 500 people hushed, many standing."
Leicester City, who said Mr Birchenall was among those representing the club at the awards, sent their "love and best wishes for a speedy recovery".
Sheffield United, who the attacking midfielder played for from 1963-67, also wished him well.
Snooker world champion and Leicester fan Mark Selby, who was named Sportsman of the Year at the ceremony, tweeted: "Thinking of you buddy."
'Mr Leicester City'
"The Birch" was born in East Ham, London, in 1945, but moved to Nottinghamshire when he was four years old.
He played for youth clubs in the county before he was spotted by Sheffield United. He went on to play for Crystal Palace and Chelsea.
However, the majority of his playing career was a six-year spell with Leicester City.
He made 163 appearances and scored 12 goals for the club.
The attacking midfielder later had spells with Notts County, Blackburn Rovers and Luton Town.
In 2002, Mr Birchenall was awarded an MBE for his charity work and seven years later he was given the Freedom of Leicester.
The 71-year-old has become synonymous with the Foxes in his role as club ambassador.
He is hugely popular with fans, pundits and many people connected with football.