The Former owner of Fulham, Mohamed Al Fayed, has blamed the removal of a Michael Jackson statue outside of the team’s stadium the reason for relegation out of the Barclays Premier League. This will be the first time in 14 years that the football club has not played in the top-level league. The statue was removed last November from the team’s home of Craven Cottage.
Jackson had attended a Fulham game at Craven Cottage in 1999. Two years after the entertainer died, Al Fayed commissioned the statue to be erected at the stadium to honor his good friend. The statue instantly became a focal point of criticism and mocking around the city and the league.
In July 2013, Al Fayed sold the team to Shahid Khan. Four months later Khan had the statue removed and returned to the former owner. Fulham fans were ecstatic to see the statue removed, however, Al Fayed thought Khan was crazy for taking down the likeness of the King of Pop. The former owner considers the statue a lucky charm.
There may be more to the relegation of Fulham than the removal of the statue of Michael Jackson as blamed by Al Fayed. Fans of the team are not thrilled with the new owner, feeling that Khan was not spending the money needed to keep the team competitive and safe from relegation. Fans also blame the owner for a lack of a stable leadership on the sideline, with three different coaches running the team this season.
After the statue was removed from the stadium and returned to Al Fayed, the former owner presented the likeness of the King of Pop to the National Football Museum. The museum, located in Manchester, will display the likeness of the pop icon on a mezzanine on the first floor. After the team was relegated out of the top-level of play, Khan asked Al Fayed for the statue back. The past owner of the team refused the request, believing it was too late since the team had already lost their place in the premier league.
Superstitions in sports are common. Many players, no matter what the sport, have rituals or practices that may or may not have any bearing on how the athlete or team performs. Most will swear by the superstitions, a few will not acknowledge them at all. When Khan had the statue taken down, no one seemed upset that the over seven-foot tall likeness of Jackson was going away or believed it had anything to do with the success of the team. The statue only stood in front of the stadium for a little over two years and the team had already spent 12 years in the premier league.
The removal of the Michael Jackson statue may end up being blamed by more fans as the relegation of Fulham sinks in. Fans will continue to blame the various coaches the team has seen this past season. However, the blame towards the new owner may shift towards the loss of the statue, as mocked as it was, along with not spending money on talent to fight to keep their spot in the premier level league. Khan, who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL, may have made a bad mistake by telling the statue of Jackson to beat it. The owner must have a thriller of an off-season to return Fulham to the top-level of the Barclays Premier League.
Commentary by Carl Auer