Cup of compassion

Thursday 24 January 2002

Fulham Chairman Mohamed Al Fayed has pledged his club's share of gate receipts from the F.A Cup 4th Round tie with York City to help fans of the struggling third division club in their survival campaign.

'Football is the people's game', he said. 'It is the supporters who are the lifeblood of the game in this country.

'York is an historic club with fine traditions and it would be a tragedy for the fans if the club were to die.'

York, who entertain the Premiership side at their Bootham Crescent ground on Saturday, face closure at the end of the season unless new buyers can be found.

Mr Al Fayed first made his generous offer direct to the board of York City Football Club within hours of Fulham's victory over Wycombe Wanderers which set up the fourth round tie last week. The offer was declined by York City's current chairman Douglas Craig.

Instead the Fulham owner's promise of financial aid has now been made to York City Supporters' Trust - a group of fans set up with the express purpose of ensuring ' the continuation of professional football in York'.

The Football Association have given approval for Fulham's unprecedented gesture. The F.A takes ten per cent of gate receipts from all F.A Cup matches to cover administrative costs. The remaining 90 per cent is divided equally between the two competing clubs and FA rules place no restriction on the way clubs disburse the money.

Mr Al Fayed, who took over Fulham at a time when it was in urgent need of investment to secure its long term future, brought Premiership football to Craven Cottage within four years of his arrival. He believes passionately in the involvement of fans with their local clubs and is a strong advocate of official support for clubs in the lower divisions.

'All of us in football should do everything we can to help the smaller clubs in the lower divisions because they are the grassroots of our great game', he said.

'Everyone, from the government and the football authorities to the rich clubs in the Premiership should do all they can to make sure that smaller clubs survive in their local communities and bring pleasure to new generations of football fans.'

Sophie McGill, York City Supporters Trust spokesperson comments:

"This generous pledge will help to empower the Supporters Trust in our efforts to ensure the survival of York City F.C and to secure representation for supporters in the future of the Club.

"This heart warming response to our current plight underlines Mr. Al Fayed's commitment to grass roots football and his awareness of the importance of a professional football club to the local community.

"In this era when football is often viewed purely in commercial terms, it is good to see there are individuals who still have the supporters and the game's best interests at heart."