Fulham will return to Craven Cottage next season after abandoning, for now, hope that they will be able to ground-share with their near neighbours, Chelsea. The scheme will involve bolting seats on to three sides of the ground which was the Premiership club's home for 105 years but has lain empty for the past 14 months.
It will increase capacity to 22,000 and, although it is a temporary, cut-price proposal, it will please fans who have accused the owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, of simply wanting to cash in on the prime Thames-side site in west London. However, the move does not mean that Fayed has reconsidered his decision to abandon a scheme to build a new 28,000-seat ground at the Cottage. That plan was shelved after costs spiralled, leading to further concern over the commitment of the Harrods owner to the club in which he has invested more than £100m.
The issue has strained relations between Fayed and Fulham's fans.
The club will continue to play at Queen's Park Rangers' Loftus Road stadium this season but have already been informed by the Premier League that the ground is not up to scratch.
Yesterday Fayed said in a statement that a formal bid for temporary building works will be submitted to Hammersmith and Fulham Council to return to the Cottage.
"I am delighted to take this step towards fulfilling the fans' dearest wish to take us home, albeit temporarily," he said. The club is still committed, it claims, to finding land to build a new stadium and leisure complex and is in negotiations for a site near White City. However, so far, it is understood to have bid too low.
Fayed said: "The new redevelopment programme at Craven Cottage will, subject to planning permission, meet Premier League requirements by installing seating on the terraces in front of the Stevenage Road stand and at the Putney and Hammersmith ends of the ground."
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