Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Kahn has made it clear that he wants to bring the National Football League to London, but for now he will be settling for having a piece of the traditional English football pie at London club Fulham as Khan took over as primary owner at Craven Cottage as reported by English and American sources on Friday afternoon.
Khan confirmed Friday that he had purchased the English soccer club Fulham, with the deal to be announced tomorrow.
“I do not view myself so much as the owner of Fulham, but a custodian of the club on behalf of its fans,” he said in a statement, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “Fulham is the perfect club at the perfect time for me.”
Khan’s words were extremely well chosen as the relationship between EPL club’s supporters and American owners has often been dicey. Manchester United supporters have a long history of not exactly fully embracing their American owners in the Glazers who also own a Floridian NFL franchise in Tampa Bay and Khan will have to do his best to earn the hearts of Fulham fans.
The acquisition of Fulham by Khan comes at the perfect time to buy an EPL team as a new tv deal has once again added hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue into the clubs that can manage to avoid relegation and stay in the top flight. Fulham has been a Premier League staple since 2001 and generally finish around mid table in the EPL and have increased their sold out matches at Craven Cottage to a whopping 18 games last season making them a lucrative buy for Khan as an investment.
The obvious alternative motive for the purchase is Fulham’s location in the heart of London. Khan, who appears to be a wise business man, knows that owning Fulham will associate the Jaguars to London and help with promotion of the London games they are set to play each season. With the talks of the NFL looking to place a team in England, Khan’s purchase of a London sports franchise will do nothing to stop those rumors from growing.
For now it will be interesting to see how Khan’s presence will be accepted in Fulham as the Glazers have found out in Manchester that sorting a European football franchise can be less profitable than revenues suggest. Still Fulham always operates on a tight budget and are usually a lock for EPL survival each year while staying at a profit. With 18 sold out games at Craven Cottage in 2012/13 Khan a smart businessman sees the money and opportunity to tie himself into the London sports scene. It is expensive publicity, but this move goes to show that the NFL still wants to stay involved in London. Whether it is for business or for a new franchise, it is likely we are going to see this trend continuing. If Khan’s investment in Fulham is profitable, it is only a matter of time.