29th May 1997 is a date that will remain etched in the memories of everyone associated with Fulham Football Club, as the day Mohamed Al Fayed’s glorious tenure as Chairman began. Purchasing the freehold of Craven Cottage and a major shareholding in the Club, it marked a metamorphosis on the banks of the Thames.
Immediately following his takeover, Mr Al Fayed promised the fans a return to the top flight of English football within five years; it was achieved in four.
Mr Al Fayed’s Fulham blazed a trail through the lower divisions and, by 2001, the Whites secured their place amongst the elite of the (then) Barclays Premiership with a record-breaking points tally as champions of Division One.
Fulham’s success under Mr Al Fayed’s stewardship has been mirrored by the development of the Club off the pitch. A stunning Training Ground in Surrey provides the Team’s management and staff with state-of-the-art facilities and the Chairman’s continued enhancement of Craven Cottage has provided the fans with a home to be proud of in an exquisite Thames-side setting.
The recent granting of planning permission for a redeveloped Riverside Stand underpins further the aspiration of long-term sustainability at the Club’s historic, and spiritual, home.
The Chairman retains an entirely hands on approach to Fulham and demonstrated his intuitive decision making once again in December 2007, installing Roy Hodgson as Manager as Fulham teetered on the brink of relegation. The Whites went on to record a stunning run of results and secure their top-flight future against the odds.
Under the Chairman’s command Fulham reached the UEFA Europa League Final in 2010 and a magnificent eighth-place Premier League finish in 2011. Ahead of the 2011/12 campaign, Mr Al Fayed made another astute managerial appointment in the form of Martin Jol, who guided Fulham to ninth place in the Premier League last season.
The Chairman’s commitment to Fulham Football Club remains as strong as ever and all interests in the company continue to be controlled and held for the benefit of the Fayed family, his son Karim was recently appointed Vice Chairman and is a regular visitor to the Training facility. It's impossible to say where the Club would be now without Mohamed Al Fayed, but it’s equally impossible to imagine that any alternative scenario could have brought more joy and progress over the past 15 years.
For more information on Fulham's Chairman, visit his personal website at http://www.alfayed.com.