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Fulham bid to play at Craven Cottage

last updated Wednesday 03rd September 2003, 6:51 PM
Fulham have launched a formal bid to return to Craven Cottage from the start of next season.

The west-London club left the stadium they had played at since 1896 last summer after agreeing a ground-share with Queen's Park Rangers at Loftus Road after seeing their bid for redevelopment of Craven Cottage thwarted.

They now plan to submit a planning application to Hammersmith and Fulham Council for temporary building works to commence on refurbishing the stadium to bring the capacity up to 22,000, although the club will continue to press ahead with proposals to build a larger stadium elsewhere in the borough.

The club had hoped to complete the redevelopment of Craven Cottage into a 30,000 all-seater venue during their two-year stay at Loftus Road.

However, the plans were initially delayed by legal action from some local residents before, according to the club, "unforeseen technical difficulties rendered the redevelopment plan unworkable".

Talks with Chelsea about moving in at Stamford Bridge collapsed and the prospect of buying a new site and then building a stadium in just 14 months proved too big a hurdle to overcome.

Instead, Fulham have opted for a cut-price reconstruction deal at their traditional home - which they initially agreed to sell to Fulham River Projects for £50million last year.

In a statement on their website, Fulham claim the "facilities at Loftus Road have proved inadequate for Premiership football without a major investment", which gave the club little option but to return to Craven Cottage in the short-term.

Fulham chairman Mohamed Al Fayed said: "I am delighted to take this step towards fulfilling the fans' dearest wish to take us home, albeit temporarily.

"Like all Fulham fans, I was bitterly disappointed when our plans to build a state-of-the-art stadium on the Craven Cottage site became impossible to achieve.

"I still believe that if we are to fulfil our long-term dreams of making Fulham a major force in football, we need a larger stadium than it is possible to erect at the Cottage and I continue to be entirely dedicated to working towards that end.

"If planning permission is granted and this all works out I will, of course, keep my promise to those who have supported us at Loftus Road through the purchase of season tickets by giving them seating preferences back at the Cottage.

"I am doing everything that I can to find a commercially viable long-term solution".

Fulham have identified a suitable plot at White City and are currently trying to purchase it so they can build "modern leisure facilities", including a swimming pool, as well as their new home.

The statement added: "The club is grateful for the help and support it is receiving from Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

"The local authority is working closely with club officials to assist in finding the best solution for Fulham Football Club, the fans, and all the residents of the borough.

"The council is prepared to consider all alternatives to keep the club in the borough and secure the appropriate site."

Under the redevelopment proposals, which are subject to planning permission, Craven Cottage will then meet Premier League requirements by putting seating on the terraces in front of the Stevenage Road stand and at the Putney and Hammersmith ends of the ground.
Source Ananova

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