Jacko snub cost Fulham Premier League slot – Fayed
Former club owner says Fulham were relegated because they took down a statue of Michael Jackson
SO NOW we know. Fulham’s relegation from the Premier League to the Championship last week had nothing to do with the fact they managed to collect only 31 points from 37 matches this season. Nor was their plight the result of going through three managers in the last six months.
No, the reason Fulham will spend next season out of England’s top flight for the first time since in 13 years is all down to Michael Jackson.
In 2011 Mohamed Al Fayed, Fulham’s then owner, installed a 7ft 6in statue of the American pop star at the back of the Hammersmith Stand in Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground. Fayed and Jackson were friends and one of the more surreal moments in the history of English football was when the King of Pop came to Craven Cottage to watch Fulham play Wigan in 1999.
To mark that occasion – and also the death of Jackson in 2009 – Fayed inaugurated the giant statue three years ago, declaring: “Michael Jackson was truly a legend, a term used too often in this modern world. I hope that Fulham fans will appreciate seeing the finest performer in the world in and among them”.
But from the outset it went down with fans like a Jackson song at a Thrash Metal gig. One supporter told The Guardian: “It's completely mad. He's got nothing to do with us. To be honest, he's the last person you'd want there."
When Fayed sold Fulham to Shahid Khan in July 2013, one of the new owner’s first acts was to remove the statue of Jackson. That decision, says Fayed, has now come back to haunt Fulham. Speaking as he presented the statue to the National Football Museum in Manchester, Fayed explained that “the statue was a charm and we removed the luck from the club".
In Fayed’s view, Fulham would not now be contemplating away trips to Huddersfield and Bournemouth next season, if only Jackson had been left at the back of the Hammersmith Stand. "When [Khan] asked me to move it I said: 'You must be crazy!' This is such a fantastic statue which the fans are crying out for. But now he has paid the price because the club has been relegated.”
According to Fayed, Khan soon realized his mistake in removing Jacko from the Cottage and made a desperate attempt to bring him back. “He called me because he told me he wanted Michael to return. I told him, ‘no way’."
Fayed’s explanation for Fulham’s demise came on the same day that manager Felix Magath wrote an open letter to the club’s supporters on the official website in which he apologised for their relegation. "We as a team, and I include myself and management, would like to apologise,” said Magath. “It certainly was not what you as fans were expecting and should rightfully demand of us."
There was no mention of Michael Jackson.