Pakistani born US Billionaire Shahid Kahn has completed the purchase of Fulham Football Club from former Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed. Kahn, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise made his money in manufacturing and is listed as the 491st richest man in the world and the richest man of Pakistani origin. He Joins a list if NFL owners in the premier league including Manchester United’s Malcolm Glazer and Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke. This Purchase may seem like any other then, rich man owns many sports teams but this one has the potential to change the face of two sports!
Kahn is one of the more innovative owners in the NFL and is well aware of the leagues plan to expand its boundaries and a London franchise is the pinnacle of that plan. With Two Wembley games planned for the upcoming season and Three planned for the following season there is certainly the potential for demand for a London franchise before this decade is out.
Now lets consider the position of the two clubs. Fulham are an established Premier League side and with the new TV deals and ever increasing money involved in the game there is little chance of them being relegated any time soon, they are however hamstrung by their stadium. Craven cottage is one of the leagues smaller grounds, with an absolute capacity of 27,500. Plans are already in place for redevelopment and increase this stadium size to over 30,000 and I would expect more plans to be developed over the coming months and years.
Jacksonville are one of the younger NFL franchises beginning in 1995, the Everbank stadium where they currently play has a capacity of more than 60,000 which can be expanded on demand to over 72,000 but in reality the Jaguars rarely fill this and sit in the bottom third of attendances and have been as low as 30th of the 32 teams. In Fulham and the Jaguars Kahn therefore has two tenants for a stadium which could be viable in the long term. The Jags are prime candidates for a move and Shahid Kahn is now in the driving seat.
There are several problems that must be overcome before any move of this nature can take place. Firstly if the NFL is to move a team to London the NFL are likely to want a stadium of larger capacity than that of an expanded craven cottage, though there are several listed features of craven cottage, but with most NFL stadia start at around 50,000 seats expect to see plans to expand craven cottage to around this figure, they are likely to provide a grant to achieve this goal also. There are repercussions of course of a ground-share and Premier League and NFL stadium not least the state of the pitch and fixture jam.
None of the proposed problems however are insurmountable so don’t be surprised if we see Fulham sharing a ground with what was once the Jacksonville Jaguars. There is a long way to go yet and the NFL will want to make sure that the prospect of a London franchise is viable before continuing but so far the signs are looking like a London team in the NFL before 2020.
Regardless of this Kahn should be good for a club like Fulham, he is innovative and not afraid to spend money if required though he has spoken of sustainability these are surely exciting times for Fulham fans. We will know of his plans for the Jags when the discussion turns to Craven Cottage.