Cottage Return Planned

Wednesday 3 September 2003

Fulham Football Club's chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed, today announced that the club has launched a formal bid to return to its Craven Cottage stadium from the start of next season.

The club will submit a planning application to Hammersmith and Fulham Council as soon as possible for temporary building works to commence.

If planning permission is granted a refurbishment programme will follow to provide additional undercover seating bringing the ground's capacity up to 22,000.

The proposed return to Craven Cottage will be a temporary move since the club remains committed to building a larger stadium elsewhere in the borough.

Last night Mr Al Fayed said: 'I am delighted to take this step towards fulfilling the fans' dearest wish to take us home, albeit temporarily'.

Fulham moved out of Craven Cottage - its base for 105 years - in May 2002 so that the ground could be redeveloped into a 30,000 all-seater stadium. Arrangements were made to groundshare at Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road stadium for two seasons while the work was completed.

Plans to build the new stadium were initially delayed by legal action from a group of residents and later unforeseen technical difficulties rendered the redevelopment plan unworkable.

The club then turned its attention to buying a plot of land within the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham for the purpose of building a new stadium. A suitable plot was identified at White City which the club is still actively trying to acquire to build an appropriate stadium together with modern leisure facilities (including a swimming pool) for the local community.

The club is grateful for the help and support it is receiving from Hammersmith and Fulham Council. The local authority is working closely with club officials to assist in finding the best solution for Fulham Football Club, the fans, and all the residents of the borough. The Council is prepared to consider all alternatives to keep the club in the borough and secure the appropriate site.

In the meantime the facilities at Loftus Road have proved inadequate for Premiership football without a major investment which has resulted in the decision to apply for planning permission to return to Craven Cottage in the short-term.

The new redevelopment programme at Craven Cottage will, subject to planning permission, meet Premier League requirements by installing seating on the terraces in front of the Stevenage Road stand and at the Putney and Hammersmith ends of the ground.

'Like all Fulham fans I was bitterly disappointed when our plans to build a state-of-the-art stadium on the Craven Cottage site became impossible to achieve', said Mr Al Fayed.

'I still believe that if we are to fulfil our long-term dreams of making Fulham a major force in football we need a larger stadium than it is possible to erect at the Cottage and I continue to be entirely dedicated to working towards that end.

'If planning permission is granted and this all works out I will, of course, keep my promise to those who have supported us at Loftus Road through the purchase of season tickets by giving them seating preferences back at the Cottage.'

'I am doing everything that I can to find a commercially viable long term solution', said Mr Al Fayed.