The more eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted that some of the Fulham players wore black armbands in memory of former Fulham player Tom Wilson, who passed away recently.
Wilson’s legacy lives on at Craven Cottage today as the fact that Fulham are still at their historic home owes a lot to his persistence. This Telegraph article lays out the lengths to which Wilson and Jimmy Hill went to secure the future of the Cottage:
Wilson, who after his playing days became prominent in property, helped former Fulham owner Ernie Clay acquire the freehold of Craven Cottage from the Church Commissioner. Clay then sold the club and all assets – including the freehold – to Marler Estates, who also owned Queens Park Rangers and Loftus Road.
There were fears that Marler would merge Fulham with QPR and sell Craven Cottage for redevelopment. Marler priced Fulham at £500,000 and this was raised – £250,000 in cash, the rest by selling Paul Parker to QPR.
Some time afterwards Marler were sold to Cabra. The Royal Bank of Scotland had financed Cabra and got the first mortgage of Craven Cottage.
Wilson and Hill had several meetings with RBS and, in 1993, the bank agreed to grant a new lease of Craven Cottage to Fulham on the basis that, in the early part of the lease, little or no rent was to be paid but Fulham had an obligation to obtain planning permission for partial development of the ground so as to add value to it. Associated with this new lease was an option in favour of Fulham which would allow the club to buy the freehold interest from the bank for £7.5 million.
Wilson and Hill now began negotiations with Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council to get planning permission for partial development and, in February 1996, consent was given for 142 flats and three new all-seat stands.
News of the prospective partial redevelopment brought numerous developers to the club and, as negotiations took so long, the bank extended the time during which the club were to pay no rent.
Although the option to purchase the freehold for £7.5 million still had some time to run, the bank were anxious for the club to buy it and Wilson and Hill got the bank to agree a 10 per cent reduction in the option price, bringing it down to £6.75 million.