As this is the first time I have written in the programme I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and to explain exactly what I hope to achieve at Fulham Football Club this season.
I have been working in my capacity as Chief Executive since mid June, and I can honestly say that the last eight weeks have been the most exciting of my professional career. It is a tremendous thrill to be here today at the dawn of our new Premiership campaign and I am genuinely excited about the prospect of what lies ahead.
Before I was appointed by Fulham I spent ten years with Telewest where my last position was Managing Director of the Consumer Division, and prior to this I spent twenty years in the airline industry occupying a variety of general management positions. Being from Edinburgh I have to admit to that I have spent the majority of my life as a Hibs fan. However two months and a string of Intertoto games at Fulham have been more than enough to win me over and it goes without saying that I am now a committed and firm Fulham convert!
In my opinion, running a football club should be no different from running any other successful business. At Fulham we have some of the very best people in the world in their specific fields - particularly in Squad Management. My job is to bring my considerable business experience to the running of the Club. You may have noticed that my title is CEO rather than MD - it is just a title, but it is also a reflection of how seriously the Chairman views the running of his Club as a business.
In simple terms my role has two main dimensions. Firstly, on the football side I will be helping Jean Tigana to achieve his ambitions on the pitch through strengthening the squad in the way he feels necessary - all within the constraints of the budgets that have been set. Jean and I will also be aided significantly in this area by the appointment of Franco Baresi who brings a wealth of experience to the Club in his role as Director of Football. Our commitment to take Fulham to the next stage has already been shown in no uncertain terms by the signings we have made during close season. I believe that we have made some exciting additions to the squad that will put us in great stead for the season ahead, and we will continue to add to the squad where and when Jean feels necessary. However it is important for our fans to realise that we do not have a bottomless pit of money to spend on players - the Club must be run as a business and we will always endeavour to keep spending within the budget constraints. As a result, we must also make sure that whoever we sign is right for the Club - that he comes at the right price, in the right condition and on the right contract. We cannot afford to take any undue risks.
On the non-football side I am here to add increased levels of organisation, focus and professionalism into the running of all other aspects of the business and to lead the Club into the next phase of its development. A significant part of this is to recognise that we are going to be moving to a brand new stadium in the not too distant future and my job is to guide us on that exciting journey. I have been frequently quoted recently explaining the situation regarding the redevelopment of the Craven Cottage site and I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the Club's position. We are still resolutely pursuing our ambition to redevelop the Cottage site but it is no secret that we are also trying to identify fallback positions within the Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. It goes without saying that the Chairman and the Board want to see the new Fulham stadium on the site of the old which is why we have worked so hard over the last two or three years to that effect. However in light of the current circumstances we feel it is only prudent to identify alternatives.
Today is a landmark in the history of Fulham Football Club as we play our first home League game at Loftus Road and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all at QPR for their help and co-operation. We have already played one game here against Sochaux in the Intertoto Cup and it was a resounding success. I am sure any of you who attended that game will agree that it is a great stadium with the potential for an electric atmosphere. To bring the stadium up to Premiership standards we have undertaken considerable work at significant expense during the summer. This is now OUR home for the next two years and I urge you all to treat it accordingly.
Being the opening League game of the season I would also like to officially welcome our new Mens Team Sponsor, Betfair.com. We are delighted to have signed up with such a high profile and innovative company. Fast-growing and entrepreneurial, Betfair.com are not unlike Fulham in many ways and we look forward to a long and successful partnership with them.
As you will all be aware, this summer has marked Fulham's first entry into European football in the UEFA Intertoto Cup. It is a great achievement to have made it to the Final, and at the time of writing we are only two games away from a much sought-after UEFA Cup place. Our vision this season is to improve on our Premiership position from 2001/02 and to secure a place in Europe. Consequently the significance of reaching the Intertoto Cup Final is massive and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at Loftus Road for the home leg next week. In the meantime, enjoy the first day of the Premiership!