Fulham takeover: New owner Shahid Khan pays tribute to Mohamed Al Fayed

 

New Fulham owner Shahid Khan believes renaming the Riverside Stand after Mohamed Al Fayed would be a fitting tribute to the Egyptian.

After a week of sustained reports, the Cottagers last night confirmed a deal had been struck with Khan, billionaire owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It brings Al Fayed's 16-year reign at Craven Cottage to an end - a period in which his money helped transform the west Londoners from a third-tier outfit to an established Premier League side.

Such generosity and support means the former Harrods owner is adored by Fulham fans, with more than 1,300 of them signing a petition to rename the Riverside Stand the Mohamed Al Fayed Stand.

"I would absolutely be open to that," he told Press Association Sport when asked about renaming the stand. "I think we have to honour him, we have to respect what he did.

"That would be something we want to think about, but absolutely I would be open to that and everything.

"I think he has an incredible legacy here. I think if you are a Fulham fan, you understand that. How important that is, what the man did for this club.

"I have a huge amount of respect for that and it's history. I think we have to respect it but we have to move forward."

Khan and Al Fayed posed for the media at a photocall on the Craven Cottage pitch this afternoon, with the former Harrods owner putting on a fake moustache similar to that of his replacement.

One of Khan's first moves will be to get the development of the Riverside Stand under way, which would see Craven Cottage's capacity increased to 30,000.

However, the new owner was coy when asked how much he had paid for the club and was reserved when asked about his plans for the future.

"The goals for this club are very clear," Khan said. "I think it has to do community affairs, we have to have a youth development programme, we have to invest in Craven Cottage.

"On the pitch, we have to have sustainable results moving forwards.

"I have felt that football clubs, whether soccer or NFL football clubs, are civic institutions.

"We are custodians of that. It is business, yet it is a civic asset.

"Fulham is going to be Fulham. It has its unique character, unique history and our goal would be to develop that, respect that and move it forwards."

Born in Pakistan, the 62-year-old moved to the United States aged 16 for college and went on to create an auto parts empire.

Khan is now worth a reported £1.9billion and such riches allowed him to buy NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.

The Jaguars will play one regular season game a season at Wembley for the next few seasons and, while keen to stress they are separate entities, hopes there can be tie-ups.

"Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be playing in London one game a year for the next four years," he said.

"They are the home team for London so we have a tie and a bond with London.

"I think these are independent clubs, they are going to be run independently, but there are best practices and there could be some synergies. We want to explore them and use them."

PA

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