Fulham are on the path to promotion back to the Premier League and the timing could not be more perfect for owner Shahid Khan. Khan made the decision to make a drastic rebuild of the Riverside Stand at Craven Cottage, making significant improvements to the aesthetics of the stadium, but also increasing the capacity and hospitality offerings available at the club.
The Cottagers have been the proverbial yo-yo team in recent seasons, drifting back and forth between the Premier League and the Championship from year to year. However, Marco Silva has his team firing on all cylinders, so much so that they are backed at 1/12 in the English Championship betting odds to win the second tier for the first time since the 2000/01 season. In their previous promotions to the top flight, Fulham reached the Premier League via the playoffs, and were subsequently chewed up and spat out by the ruthless elite.
It is a good omen for Silva’s men that the last time they were promoted as champions, the Cottagers remained in the top flight for 13 seasons. Whether that is a coincidence remains to be seen, but Fulham have ensured they capitalised on the riches of the Premier League and the resulting parachute payments to improve the financial model of the club and also the infrastructure.
Craven Cottage is one of the oldest grounds in the Football League. Although it is rich in history, Khan was quite right to identify that the stadium was in need of improvement to bring it in line with the modern stadia based in London and elsewhere in the country. The addition of 3,900 onto the capacity courtesy of the rebuilt Riverside Stadium will allow Fulham to attract just under 30,000 spectators to all of their home matches.
It is an important step in the right direction for Fulham to differentiate themselves from the best of the rest of the London sides in and around the Premier League. Crystal Palace and Watford fall under the same umbrella as the Cottagers for sides that are stuck in limbo in their position in the football pyramid, albeit Palace have remained a permanent fixture in the top flight since 2013.
Neither Palace nor Watford have made strides to improve Selhurst Park or Vicarage Road, and Fulham’s changes will be a feather in their cap in their bid to bring business and more importantly players to the club ahead of their rivals.
Fulham are not going to catch Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in terms of their brand off the field. However, they hold a unique spot in London overlooking The Thames, which provides a picturesque setting and the opportunity for the club to sell hospitality tickets with a new state-of-the-art stand.
If those revenue streams improve, it alleviates the reliance on the funds of the Premier League and their television deals, which could further allow Fulham to invest in their infrastructure at Craven Cottage along with their team and academy.
Silva’s men are on the march to the Premier League and it appears that their rise will only be the start of a new dawn at the club.