By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) – Fulham’s new owner Shahid Khan said he did not intend to micro-manage the Premier League club but pledged his full financial support to bring success on the pitch when he met the media on his first full day in charge on Saturday.
Pakistani-born Khan, 62, a billionaire car-parts manufacturer who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise, completed the takeover of the London club from former owner and Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed on Friday.
Meeting the media at a sun-drenched Craven Cottage by the banks of the River Thames, the flamboyantly-mustachioed Khan said he envisaged a “sustainable, successful future” for the club and praised Al Fayed for his 16 years as owner.
Al Fayed, 84, who is retiring to spend time with his family, rescued the once-ailing club from the lower divisions in 1997 and has helped them to maintain their Premier League status for 13 seasons.
Khan gave away little about his specific plans and was even cagey about the future of the famous statue of the late rock star Michael Jackson which Fayed erected at the ground in 2011 following the singer’s death in 2009.
“We are looking to have a winning, sustainable club moving forwards. It is a very special place, and a perfect club for me at a perfect time,” he told Sky Sports.
“I think Mr Al Fayed did an incredible job here over the last 16 years building it to where it is – and now it’s a passing of the baton.
“There is a great leadership here and my goal is to sustain that and to support the business plan they have. I have a lot to learn but I will be supporting them.
“It is very difficult to be specific. I am not a micro-manager, I don’t intend to be involved day to day but I do intend giving them all the support they need financially to be successful on the pitch.”
He said plans to modernise the stadium and increase its capacity from around 26,000 to 30,000 were “absolutely vital” but would not be drawn on the future of the controversial Jackson statue which stands at one end of the Riverside Stand.
“I have been the owner less than a day. We have to preserve and respect history but we also have to move forward. I am going to reflect on it, listen to the fans and then decide.
“This is a special, historic place that really needs the investment and our goal would be to redevelop it moving forward.”
Regarding his ownership of the Jaguars he said there was “synergy” between the two clubs but they were distinct and would operate independently.
Al Fayed, sporting an imitation Khan-style moustache, said he was delighted to be handing over the club to Khan, but did give him one warning.
Asked about the future of the Jackson statue, Al Fayed looked at Khan and replied: “The Michael Jackson statue is listed with the club and if he dares to move it, he will be in big trouble.
“You listening to me? You promise now – otherwise I will come in front of all the fans with a big razor and I will take your moustache off.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)