Fulham’s return to Craven Cottage – greeted by a jubilant crowd of just under 7,000 supporters – turned in farce today as their pre-season friendly with Watford was abandoned at half-time after referee Peter Walton enforced the new FIFA regulations when both teams made six substitutions during the interval.

The fixture continued as an exhibition match in the second half with an assistant referee taking charge and Fulham’s kitman, Alan ‘Pudsey’ Bevan running one of the lines. The controversy rankled with many and Fulham clu secretary’s urged supporters to write to FIFA’s Sepp Blatter with their complaints. But for the hardcore Fulham fans this was a day of celebration as the club ended their exile at Queens Park Rangers’ Loftus Road to return to their historic home – vindicating the ‘Back to the Cottage’ campaign set up after Mohamed Al-Fayed agreed a deal to sell the ground to Fulham River Projects.

Fulham have bought themselves out of that arrangement at a cost of £18m and have spent around £8m bringing Craven Cottage up to Premier League standards by removing the old terracing and installing 22,000 seats. Al Fayed urged the supporters to play their part. Writing in the programme, the Fulham chairman said: “We now need to fill the stadium. The more successful the supporters make Craven Cottage, the more likely it is we will stay here.”