Khan vows to build on Al Fayed's work at Fulham

Former owner Mohamed Al Fayed has asked the fans to get behind new owner Khan in the "new era" for the club.

Afp July 13, 2013
The new owner of Fulham Football Club, Shahid Khan, holds a personalised team shirt as he poses for photographers at the club's Craven Cottage ground, in west London July 13, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON: Fulham's new owner Shahid Khan vowed to build on the foundations left by Mohamed Al Fayed as the Pakistan-born billionaire arrived at Craven Cottage for the first time on Saturday following his takeover.

Khan, who also owns NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars, struck an agreement with Al Fayed on Friday that put the Premier Leage club under new ownership for the first time in 16 years.

The 62-year-old is reported to have paid around £150 million for 100 per cent control and met the media for the first time on Saturday.

Khan was quick to pay tribute to Al Fayed, but also made it clear that he believed there was more to achieve for a club who finished 12th in the Premier League last season and reached the Europa League final in 2010.

"There's a great leadership here and I have a lot to learn. But I'll give the team all the support it needs to be successful on the pitch," Khan said.

"We have to respect history. I am going to listen to the fans and decide, but we have to make sure it (the club) is sustainable.

Al Fayed, the 84-year-old former Harrods owner, had transformed Fulham from a third-tier outfit to an established top-flight side since taking over in 1997.

And Khan, instantly recognisable due to his flamboyant moustache, made it clear that the controversial Egyptian deserved respect for his efforts.

"I think it is incredible," he said. "The man rescued Fulham and had a great vision which he's shared with me. I think it's very, very important to all the Fulham fans.

Khan, who was born in Lahore but now has American citizenship, is ranked 179th in the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans with an estimated worth of $2.5 billion after making his fortune as a car parts manufacturer.

He already has ties to London, with the Jaguars scheduled to play one regular game per season at Wembley for the next four years.

Khan has described London as the missing piece for the Jaguars, who do not sell out all their home games at their base in north Florida.

While the purchase of Fulham is not overtly connected to that ambition, it will allow Khan to promote both brands in tandem on either side of the Atlantic.

And he hinted that there would be some interaction between his two teams.

"These are true distinct clubs that will operate differently and independently, but there is a huge amount of synergy," Khan said.

Al Fayed infamously unveiled a statue of Michael Jackson outside Craven Cottage in 2011, claiming the pop star 'loved Fulham' and telling Cottagers fans they could 'go to hell' if they did not like it.

Asked if the status would remain in place, Khan said: "I've been an owner less than a day. We have to preserve and respect history but we have to move forward. I'll reflect on it and listen to the fans, then decide."

Al Fayed added, "It's a monument, listed. If he dares to move it he will be in big trouble.”

"But he owns a club with the same prestige and fame, I'm sure he'll do a great job,” said Al Fayed.

"I think the fans respect my decision because they know what I've done for them for 18 years. I'm sure they're happy that I wouldn't pass the club to any junkie," he said.

Fulham are the sixth Premier League club under American ownership, joining Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Sunderland.

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