Fulham chairman Mohammed Al Fayed has called on fans to match his own “self-sacrifice” in funding their move back to Craven Cottage next season – by ensuring the ground is full for every game.
Al Fayed made a public plea for supporters to buy early season tickets for next season as he looked towards investing in new players this summer.
While Fulham are returning to their historic home after the end of a two-year stay at Loftus Road, they need to ensure that the move is profitable.
The club moved out of Craven Cottage in May 2002, to enable the ground to be redeveloped as a 30,000 all-seater stadium, but plans had to be dropped after opposition from local residents and technical problems.
Fulham are now spending £5.4million on refurbishing Craven Cottage. That has brought the capacity up to 22,000, with new seating and roofs, but the club need to ensure the ground is full for almost all games – not just the most high-profile matches.
That was not always the case at Craven Cottage in the past, leading to Al Fayed’s direct plea to fans in the final home match programme of the season.
He declared: “Making the decision to go back to Craven Cottage at huge cost is a result of the care and love I have for the club and the fans.
“I have done my part with self-sacrifice and I would now ask you to show your support for the club by purchasing season tickets or match package deals.
“Craven Cottage only has a small capacity, which is why it is absolutely essential that we fill it for every single game. This is a vital pre-requisite towards our ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.
“Without your support and help, it is difficult to flourish and make your dreams come true.
“We have had a great season, we have a team and a manager of whom we can be immensely proud and we are returning to Craven Cottage.
“With this in mind, if you are a true Fulham supporter, I know you will demonstrate this by actively committing to the club.”
Al Fayed still sees considerable room for optimism, especially with the club currently in ninth place and, if they win away at Bolton this weekend, with the chance of finishing eighth.
Considering they were tipped by many observers to struggle this season under new manager Chris Coleman, that has been a noteworthy achievement.
“We are in the enviable position of having much to celebrate. We are on course for our highest finish in the Premiership and there is still a good chance that this season could result in the club’s highest ever league finish,” said Al Fayed.
He paid tribute to the “dedication, expertise and leadership” of Coleman and his assistant Steve Kean over the past season.
“Steve and Chris have done an impeccable job in sometimes testing circumstances and our success this season is a testament to their tireless work,” he added.
“I made the decision to appoint Chris as the leader against the odds and with an avalanche of criticism. In return, Chris has never let me down, proving my aspiration and trust.”
Al Fayed also had praise for the Fulham players, who have coped with the departure of their leading striker, Louis Saha, to Manchester United.
“They have been a credit to us all this season with their determined and resolute attitude, and complete dedication to the cause,” he concluded.
“The summer months will undoubtedly see the usual flurry of transfer activity and I have already been in discussions with Chris and our chief executive, Jim Hone, regarding investment in the squad during the close season.
“Now it is vital that we build on the great work undertaken this season to ensure continued progress.”