With a smile and a handshake, Jaguars owner Shad Khan greeted me at Craven Cottage, saying,: “You know, you’re on Anne Boleyn’s hunting ground here.”
Craven Cottage is the home stadium or “grounds” of Khan’s English Premier League soccer team, Fulham. He was, in good spirits and outlined most of the history of the club and the surrounding neighborhood with the ease of somebody who clearly had studied the subject.
“Fulham is a unique club,” he continued. “We have a neutral stand (generally in England the two opponents fans are not allowed to sit together) and we’re a popular club all over London.”
The Cottagers (aka the “Whites”) were founded as a club in 1879 and have been in the same stadium since 1886. They have the most affluent fan base of any team in the EPL and, unlike most teams, nobody hates them.
“I found that everybody likes Fulham,” Khan added, echoing others who call them everybody’s “second favorite club.”
It’s an easy walk from the Putney Bridge stop on the London Underground, locally known as the Tube, down to Craven Cottage. The nearly one mile trek goes past antique book stores and flower shops, through neighborhoods and Bishop’s Park, hard along the Thames. In fact, both of Shad’s teams play in stadiums by a river. In Jacksonville, over 75,000 can see a game. In London, 25,000.
Much like he’s doing in Jacksonville, Khan has plans to renovate and expand Craven Cottage.
“The City of London is giving us 30 more feet along the Thames to expand the riverside stand,” he explained. They’ll demolish the current stands and rebuild them. He plans to have high-end hospitality there, as he does at home. “It’s an important part of what we’re doing,’ he explained waving his hand across the pitch.
While his purchase of the Jaguars and Fulham seemed rather fast paced, Khan says it wasn’t part of any grand scheme. He felt like there was some synergy between the two leagues. Owning both clubs is part of a business plan to attract sponsors to both Fulham and the Jaguars.
“We’re looking for more fans for the Jaguars,” he continued. “It’s all about expanding the fans, and Jacksonville’s economic development. The Jaguars don’t have enough sponsors and some have left. In some cases I don’t blame them, but we need to find some more. There’s a synergy between the two, a cross-pollination if you will, that I think will work.”
Khan plans to operate the two sports clubs as separate entities but thinks there’s plenty of opportunity to engage business and fans that have an overall interest in both.
Shad’s not worried, at least short term, about the Jaguars start under Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley. “That’s not sustainable but it is what it is right now. We’re trying to rebuild the whole thing.” Khan often notes that he couldn’t do that with Fulham because of the EPL’s “relegation” policy. (The bottom three teams get dropped to a lower division and the top three from there get promoted.) “Fulham’s been 12 straight years without relegation and it’s important we stay in the Premiership.”
I noted that it was a big week for him and it got started off right with Fulham’s 4-1 win at Crystal Palace Monday night.“A breakout win for them. They have the talent. Now let’s see where they go from here,” he agreed.
“Pretty exciting,” I said.
“Very exciting,” he added. “It’s an exciting week, a big week, an important week. It’s good to be me!” he said with a laugh and without a bit of smugness.
He’s having so much fun it makes you wonder: What’s he going to do next?