CHAIRMAN Mohamed Al Fayed has provoked outrage among Fulham fans after telling those supporters critical of his controversial statue of Michael Jackson to “go to hell”.
Al Fayed, speaking after unveiling his tribute to the deceased King of Pop at Craven Cottage yesterday, also suggested fans who did not like it were not welcome and should follow west London rivals Chelsea instead.
His remarks sparked such fury among disbelieving Cottagers fans that the club had to delete a discussion thread on their official website in which supporters were angrily deriding Al Fayed and the monument.
Al Fayed rounded on his critics when asked if he thought it a little bizarre to house the statue of Jackson, a friend of his but with little other association with Fulham, at the club’s ground.
“Bizarre? Why? Football fans love it,” he said. “And if some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift that this guy gave to the world, they can just go to hell. I don’t want them to be fans if they don’t understand and believe in the things that I believe in. If not, they can go to Chelsea or to anywhere else.”
Fulham fans hit back at Al Fayed on the club website’s forum, calling him “misguided” and an “old fool”, while his comments were labelled “an own goal” and “a terrible, terrible PR move”.
Others said they felt “infuriated” and “disgusted” by the remarks, while contributors largely poured scorn on the statue itself, calling it “laughable” and “a joke”. The thread, entitled “Fayed is Off the Wall” was eventually removed.
Fanzine editor David Lloyd, of There’s Only One F In Fulham, strongly defended Al Fayed’s tenure but admitted his comments were “potentially divisive”.
“To come out with that is a bit brash but fairly typical of him,” Lloyd told City A.M. “The chairman’s the bedrock and what’s keeping us afloat. He has barely put a foot wrong as chairman. I don’t think it’s worth throwing toys out of the pram.”
Al Fayed originally intended the statue of Jackson, who died in 2009, to be displayed in Harrods but switched its location to Fulham after selling the Knightsbridge store last year. He added: “It is nice to see a memory that can stay forever. And it’s such a beautiful statue.”
Jackson attended a game in 1999 with the chairman but was otherwise not associated with the club, although Al Fayed talked up his interest.