Fulham rethink plans to return home

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Fulham have dropped the £100m redevelopment of Craven Cottage in a move which appears to end any hopes fans had that they would return to their famous old ground.

Fulham have dropped the £100m redevelopment of Craven Cottage in a move which appears to end any hopes fans had that they would return to their famous old ground.

In a blunt statement, the club's chairman Mohamed Al Fayed, who owns the freehold to the site, said that the proposal was off because "the cost has spiralled out of all proportion". He added: "It is now obvious that to invest heavily in building a stadium which would only generate revenue, at most, once a week is not a financially viable option.

"If the proposed Craven Cottage stadium were now to be built according to the original plans, the cost would exceed £100m. Clearly, to saddle the club with this magnitude of debt in the current financial climate would be foolhardy in the extreme and could seriously jeopardise the long term future of the club."

It is understood that the west London club, who currently ground share with Queen's Park Rangers after moving out of Craven Cottage at the end of last season, have a budget of only £30m and are also now looking to build a stadium which holds fewer fans.

The model they appear to be pursuing is that achieved by Southampton, who have a new stadium, St Mary's, which was built at a similar cost. However, achieving such a feat in London may prove impossible, although Fulham are examining a site in Osterley.

The most likely option, however, appears to be a ground share and it may be that Fulham extend their tenure at Loftus Road. The announcement is a bitter blow to fans who have been pushing the club to make a statement on the plans for Craven Cottage, especially after a House of Lords ruling appeared to clear the way for the development despite opposition from local residents and conservationists.

It will also raise further question marks over Fayed's commitment to the club, with many fans believing the millionaire is starting to lose interest, especially after suffering a £23.3m loss last year and with results on the field falling below expectations.

The club claim that "negotiations are at a delicate stage" as to what the other options are and insist they have not ruled out a return to Craven Cottage, which they first moved into in 1896. In a statement on their website, Fulham added: "The chairman fully understands the impatience and frustration of the fans but, since he has a greater personal stake in the club than anyone else, he is determined to do nothing which might derail these potential projects. To detail the current plans publicly would certainly have this effect."

However, the announcement only served to aggravate their fans. Tom Greatrex, of the Back to the Cottage pressure group, said: "If it is too expensive to build the stadium on the proposals they had then one of the options should be a cheaper one on the same site rather than look elsewhere. If they are not doing that then that is the end of the club's association with Craven Cottage and in my view the beginning of the end for Fulham."

Elsewhere, Arsenal's Martin Keown has been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association following his spat with the Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy in the game at Old Trafford earlier this month.

Keown was seen to push the Dutch international during the Gunners' 2-0 defeat and, although the incident was missed by the match referee Dermot Gallagher, the FA requested a video tape of the match.

The England defender apologised to his manager, Arsène Wenger, immediately after the match but explained there had been no malice in his shove on Van Nistelrooy, which resulted in him falling theatrically to the floor. "Ruud was standing on my foot so I just pushed him away with my hand in an attempt to free myself," Keown said at the time. "It certainly wasn't malicious. My only intention was to get him off me."