Fulham dismiss claim owner Shahid Khan plans to develop 122-year-old Craven Cottage into flats
Fulham have reiterated their commitment to Craven Cottage after a former executive claimed the club’s owner Shahid Khan views the historic football ground as a “negative asset” and plans to develop the stadium into luxury riverside properties.
According to the club’s former assistant director of football Craig Kline, Khan plans to move Fulham to Wembley and will develop the 122-year-old Craven Cottage into flats should his proposed £600m purchase of the national stadium go ahead.
After Khan’s Wembley bid was made public in April he promised, unprompted, that it would “have no impact on Craven Cottage as the home of FFC”, but Kline claims that Khan views the ground as a “negative asset” in one of the most expensive areas of London.
Kline has claimed that Khan’s purchase of Fulham in July 2013 was motivated by a long-term strategy to move his NFL franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars, to London in order to seize the initiative in the race into the NFL’s relatively untapped European market and that moving the Jags from Florida to the UK remains his priority.
But while the Jags’ potential relocation is no secret and has been widely reported, Kline’s claims regarding the redevelopment of Craven Cottage are new and contradict Khan’s April statement.
“They’re going to develop the Cottage entirely into flats, that’s the plan,” Kline told The Independent. “It’s a negative asset, it’s sitting on one of the most expensive pieces of property in London.”
He added: “The NFL has decided the north Florida market can’t support two teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, two of the worst markets in the NFL.
“The NFL entry into the European market is one of the biggest product market entries ever, the German and European television money is massive for occupying those time slots.
“I was privy to all this information a very long time ago, it didn’t start out as secret.”
Kline, an American data expert, left Fulham under a cloud last November after clashing with other senior figures and following an incident in which he called police to the training ground. After his departure he tweeted a series of serious allegations about club practices which were later deleted.
On Monday he tweeted the FA Council claiming to have “evidence of systematic corruption” relating to the purchase of Wembley. The FA are investigating Kline’s claims, all of which Fulham and Khan strenuously deny.
When contacted by The Independent, the club pointed to Tuesday’s statement made on behalf of Khan: “This is nothing more than the same ongoing nonsense and bogus claims made by a former employee who left the club in 2017. Nothing here merits a further response.”
Kline was a longstanding friend of Fulham’s vice-chairman Tony Khan, Shahid’s son, since childhood and in a follow-up tweet on Tuesday he claimed that the pair of them had worked together to build a “paper trail” of evidence proving “so much fraud in football”. However it is understood they have had no contact since Kline’s acrimonious exit nearly 12 months ago and that Khan is dismayed to be linked in any way to the allegations.
Khan’s proposed Wembley purchase moved a step closer last month after it was approved by the FA board, to which he responded with a statement reaffirming his commitment to Craven Cottage: “The news from today’s FA Board meeting is welcomed and encouraging. I understand the discussion was open and thorough. One cannot ask for more as we continue to work through the process with the FA Board, FA Council, Sport England, the Mayor of London’s office and DCMS toward reaching an agreement that will serve English football for generations to come.
“Today’s development has no effect on my plans to renovate Craven Cottage and, as such, has no impact on Craven Cottage continuing to be the permanent home of Fulham Football Club.”
The plans will be presented to the FA Council on Thursday before a vote on 24 October.