Premier League

Al Fayed agrees sale of Fulham

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Fri, 12 Jul 2013 22:30:00

Celtic suffered a fourth successive pre-season defeat as they went down 3-0 to Union Berlin.

Joe Ledley, Adam Matthews, Charlie Mulgrew, Virgil van Dijk and Gary Hooper were all absent due to injury although captain Scott Brown managed 60 minutes as he continues his recovery from a groin injury.

Celtic had lost 6-2 to Union's Bundesliga 2 rivals Greuther Furth on Tuesday and they found themselves behind inside 11 minutes at a packed Stadion An der Alten Forsterei, where around 20,000 fans were marking the opening of the new main stand.

Midfielder Tomas Rogic lost the ball midway inside his own half and it was helped on to Simon Terodde, who unleashed a 20-yard volley that swerved past Fraser Forster into the roof of the net.

Forster appeared to be taken by surprise by the effort but he pulled off an impressive stop moments later before Celtic improved in the latter stages of the half with Mikael Lustig heading not far wide.

But some slack defending cost the Scottish champions 10 minutes after the restart with Celtic failing to react as a half-cleared corner was sent high back into their box for the unmarked Soren Brandy to stab home.

Union had a goal disallowed for offside before Australian youngster Jackson Irvine and Anthony Stokes got efforts on target, but Celtic conceded another soft goal three minutes from time.

The visitors, who also lost to Ukrainian side Sevastopol and Romanians Cluj on their tour of Germany, failed to pick up at a short corner and the ball was crossed for Damir Kreilach to rise above substitute Amido Balde and head home from close range.

Celtic will now be hoping to halt the losing run in their Champions League qualifier against Cliftonville in Belfast on Wednesday night.

The 84-year-old former Harrods owner has transformed the west Londoners from a third-tier outfit to an established Barclays Premier League side since taking over in 1997.

Sustained reports this week suggested Al Fayed would now sell the club and the Cottagers have tonight confirmed a deal has been struck with Khan, billionaire owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"My time of serving as the custodian of Fulham Football Club would one day come to an end, and I feel that time has now arrived," Al Fayed said in a statement.

"The time is right because I have found a very good man in Shahid Khan to accept the responsibility and privilege that I have enjoyed at Fulham since 1997.

"Fulham will be in very good hands with Shahid, whose success in business and passion for sport is very evident.

"I ask everyone who loves Fulham and our Craven Cottage home to welcome Shahid as he begins his journey as the next guardian of Fulham Football Club."

Khan is worth £1.9billion, according to Forbes, making him the 490th richest man in the world.

Born in Pakistan, the 62-year-old moved to the United States aged 16 for college and secured an engineering degree from the University of Illinois.

Khan went onto create an auto parts empire and such riches allowed him to buy NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars, who will play one regular season game a season at Wembley for the next four years.

He said: "I was recently very fortunate to have been introduced to Mohamed Al Fayed, a man I respect and admire immensely for what he has accomplished in his life and - above all - what he has given others.

"Today, he is giving me the privilege and responsibility of serving as the next custodian of Fulham Football Club.

"I am extremely honoured to accept and want to thank him, on behalf of everyone who loves Fulham, for 16 years of exceptional service to the club.

"Mr Al Fayed rescued the club in its hour of need and has led it to a sustained place within the Premier League.

"Fulham is the perfect club at the perfect time for me.

"I want to be clear, I do not view myself so much as the owner of Fulham, but a custodian of the club on behalf of its fans.

"My priority is to ensure the club and Craven Cottage each have a viable and sustainable Premier League future that fans of present and future generations can be proud of.

"We will manage the club's financial and operational affairs with prudence and care, with youth development and community programmes as fundamentally important elements of Fulham's future."

Khan has big boots to fill, with Al Fayed leaving an extremely popular figure after transforming the club on and off the field.

Fulham reached the Europa League final three years ago and last season finished 12th in the league under the guidance of Martin Jol.

Off the field, the club is effectively debt-free after Al Fayed converted previous loans into equity earlier this year.

Training facilities have improved markedly and Craven Cottage has been revamped, with planning permission in place to redevelop the Riverside Stand and increase the stadium's capacity to 30,000.

Such is his popularity that more than 1,000 Fulham fans have already signed a petition to rename the Riverside Stand the Mohamed Al Fayed Stand.

Al Fayed: "Now is the right time for me to retire and spend time playing football with my grandchildren.

"I am sad but proud of our achievements. I am very grateful to Fulham's fans, the most incredible fans in the world.

"They have given me their support and affection whenever they have seen me at home games.

"I would never let them down. I have passed the club to a talented, honest and highly capable man who respects Fulham and its traditions. He is a great sportsman."

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