I would also like to say hello to our visitors from Brighton & Hove Albion and their supporters. No matter which side you stand for this afternoon, I assure you of excellent hospitality and one of the most genuine football experiences you’ll find here in England or beyond. Welcome!
The start of any new season comes with optimism, hope and belief. And while all of that is certainly true at Fulham, I’d like to add that perhaps for the first time in my three seasons as your Chairman, we’re also enjoying a sense of quiet confidence at Motspur Park. It’s evident and very refreshing, and it supports our decision to recruit Mike Rigg as Chief Football Officer and fully stand behind Kit Symons as your First Team Manager. I recognise it’s early, but everything feels different this season with Mike and Kit firmly in control. And, in addition to the positive environment on the football side of the operation, we also have excellent spirit throughout the Club, at every level, and it’s getting better every day. Compared to last year at this time, well, there’s no comparison.
To repeat, I understand this is only the start, but I must commend Mike and Kit on their work over the summer to assemble a squad that has chemistry, a blend of experience and potential, and a clear understanding of the responsibility and honour that comes with wearing the Fulham badge. Just as important, and as our results to date seem to suggest, we have a First Team that is built to compete and succeed in the unique league that is the Championship.
I was very pleased and encouraged at our showing during our pre-season friendlies, particularly in our effort at home against Premier League side Crystal Palace, but understood that the truer picture would come last week in our campaign debut at Cardiff City. If ever there were a draw that was equally heartbreaking and inspiring, that was it. It took a spectacular equaliser to prevent us from taking all three points on the road, and the effort was one we could be proud of and build upon. And, that’s what we did on Tuesday with another strong performance on the road by defeating Wycombe Wanderers in the Capital One Cup. We welcome the opportunity to advance in the tournament - but, above all, we’re committed to a strong start in the Championship and establishing Craven Cottage as a very difficult, if not impossible, place for our opponents to visit.
As we open our home fixtures, I’m extremely pleased to welcome VISIT FLORIDA as our Main Team Sponsor for the 2015/16 season and cannot wait to see our Club on the Craven Cottage pitch today in what I consider to be the best-looking shirts we’ve had since becoming Chairman in 2013.
The VISIT FLORIDA logo you see across the front of the shirt is more than a brand. VISIT FLORIDA is a message that I believe in and hope you will one day take to heart, because you will not regret it. Florida is my home and where you will find the Jacksonville Jaguars on what we call the “First Coast”, which is striking in its history and beauty and possibly the most underrated place to live, work and play in the United States. Also, the UK is Florida’s leading overseas market, so this alliance will provide VISIT FLORIDA the opportunity to engage with fans around two passions - travel and football. And that would include American Football in Jacksonville!
VISIT FLORIDA will be featured on the front of our new home, away and third kits, and it will receive marketing rights that will include signage on the Riverside Stand roof at Craven Cottage on the landing approach from Heathrow Airport. The visual impact on and above the pitch will be incredible. I sincerely thank Paul Phipps, the chief marketing officer at VISIT FLORIDA, and his staff in the U.S. and here in London for supporting us in what I know will be an outstanding partnership. And if I haven’t sold you yet on Florida, try www.visitflorida.com and I’ll see you there!
The effort to bring Mike Rigg to Fulham from the Football Association, and the announcement of our creative and extremely significant partnership between Fulham and VISIT FLORIDA, are just two examples that I hope will represent my complete and unqualified commitment to the Club. And as we launch a new campaign, I ask for your trust in me as your Chairman to serve you, and your Club, in a manner all season long that will position Fulham to challenge for promotion. I believe we can.
Come on you Whites!
Shahid Khan, Chairman