Fulham Chairman and Owner Shahid Khan paid a visit to the club’s Motspur Park training ground earlier in the week. The visit coincided with new Head Coach Slavisa Jokanovic’s first full week in charge and gave our owner the opportunity for some face time to the new boss.
Khan’s welcome visit to London comes after a near two month period of unrest at Fulham which ended with the appointment of Jokanovic shortly after Christmas. The prolonged period of uncertainty of the change of management and the news of a transfer embargo led to many fans openly questioning Khan’s personal commitment and level of involvement in Fulham, so this visit was likely considered a necessary photo opportunity to mend a few fences.
Khan was accompanied at Motspur Park by his PR advisor, Jim Woodcock of Public Relations company FleishmanHilliard, who tweeted a picture of the visit before a video was later posted online by the club. The video it must be said did appear quite contrived given it was obvious it wasn’t exactly off the cuff but it certainly did the job from a public relations perspective.
Mr Woodcock has proven something of a good sport over the past year or so. Ever since his email got leaked on various forums, he’s been inundated with a barrage of emails from Fulham fans with no other method of sending sentiment to our owner. Anecdotally it seems he’s responded to nearly all the emails he’s received.
Public relations and image is something that Shahid (“Shad” has yet to catch on here) Khan has had a good reputation for in Jacksonville by all accounts, but less so over here amongst the Fulham community. That might not be because he’s done a lot wrong bar not being Mohamed Al-Fayed, but being an overseas based owner for whom football clearly isn’t second nature, he was fighting a tough PR battle from Day 1. Factor in the cavalcade of misery that we’ve had on the pitch since he took over and, well, you can see why he has a retained PR company.
Whether the reason for this visit was simply to get some overdue good PR or if there was some other business to attend to, having Khan at the club this week has to be viewed as a positive. Photo-op or not, for the players and managers to see the Chairman in person must be a good thing. Players are far more likely to play for an owner who cares.
It would be nice if at some point Khan would engage with the fans on more than a superficial basis. With a PR conglomerate working for him, our Shahid Khan sightings almost always come across as staged, or just a bit too perfect. He always says the right thing, and you often wonder how. Programme columns are a perfect example or where you might hear from the Chairman, but there is no guarantee that the words haven’t been vetted to ensure they don’t upset the apple cart.
With ongoing questions regarding the timeline of the Riverside Stand development, board oversight in light of the breach of Financial Fair Play regulations and the seemingly mishandled and certainly miscommunicated search for a manager, a healthy and open dialogue between the Fulham owner and the fans would only strengthen our club.
As a Director of the Fulham Supporters Trust, I would encourage Mr Khan to engage with the Supporters Trust, who already have productive monthly meetings with the CEO and other senior management of the club. However, as a fan I would just encourage more engagement with the fanbase in general. A photocall and increased visibility is certainly the first step in the right direction but the ongoing problems at Charlton show what can happen when the relationship between an absentee owner and fanbase deteriorates. We’re not at that stage, but a perilous league position always has fans wondering at the back of their mind when, not if, our owner will get bored and decide to cut his losses.
The Jokanovic appointment has given everybody associated with the club a bit of positive momentum. Despite the iffy performance last Saturday, there is an air of good feeling around the fans at Craven Cottage for the first time in months. Something that was palpable at Craven Cottage last weekend.
For our charismatic Chairman, the appointment of a new Manager has deflected attention back to the football field rather than the Boardroom. If our Chairman and his advisors are as media savvy as they should be, now is the time to press on. Khan’s visit will mean for nothing if he’s not heard or seen again until August.
On field results will of course be the first dictator of whether any positive vibes remain; but a united, healthy and engaged relationship between fanbase and ownership will go a long way.
P.s. Did anyone else notice how much longer Khan spent talking to Moussa Dembele than other players? I’m not sure how long it takes to say “How much do you want?” but it’s not that long.
P.p.s. Hopefully a trip to Jermyn Street was on his agenda. For a billionaire, his clothes could do with an upgrade.