On Khan's 1st full day as Fulham owner, pressing issue is future of Michael Jackson statue

  • Article by: ROB HARRIS , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 13, 2013 - 1:25 PM

LONDON — Standing on Fulham's field next to the River Thames, Shad Khan quickly discovered that the issues Premier League owners must tackle extend far beyond soccer.

On his first full day running the London club, the trickiest questions Khan had to face were not about the cash available for new players, or goals for the upcoming season.

The pressing issue locally for the owner of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday was about Michael Jackson.

Yes, the late "King of Pop."

A statue of Jackson sits outside Fulham's Craven Cottage stadium, commissioned after the star's death in 2009 by Mohamed Al Fayed in one of the most contentious decisions of his 18-year ownership.

Now that the Cottagers have been sold, might the statue be removed?

Khan hesitated.

"I've been an owner less than a day," he said, searching for a diplomatic response. "We have to preserve and respect history, but we have to move forward. I'll reflect on it and listen to the fans, then decide."

There's no decision to be made, according to Al Fayed.

"Michael Jackson will stay — it's part of the deal," the Egyptian said, before adding with Khan in ear-shot: "Are you listening to me about Michael Jackson? You promise now? Otherwise ... I will take your moustache off."

The moustache has been Khan's trademark since 1972 as he built his fortune in the automotive industry after moving to the U.S. from Pakistan. He bought the Jaguars in 2011 and now Fulham in a deal thought to be worth more than $200 million.

As Fayed bid farewell to the club he took from the third tier into the Premier League, the former owner of the Harrods department store donned a fake moustache to pose for pictures with Khan on a day of rare scorching heat in London.

The takeover was wrapped up swiftly ahead of Fulham's Aug. 17 opener at Sunderland as the 84-year-old Al Fayed heads into retirement.

But it was the NFL that first enabled Khan to establish a sporting bond with London. The Jaguars will play regular- season games at Wembley Stadium for four consecutive seasons starting with an Oct. 27 meeting against the San Francisco 49ers.

"We obviously have the commitment to London with Jacksonville so I was looking at that," Khan told The Associated Press, discussing the takeover in Fulham's locker room.

"I have watched Fulham and I know the history and I've been to a game here. I just thought about contacting Mr. Al Fayed about a month or so ago just to talk to him, and one thing led to another."

Khan's takeover means six of the 20 current Premier League clubs have American ownership, including four with links to NFL teams.

Aston Villa's Randy Lerner sold the Cleveland Browns last year, the family of Arsenal's Stan Kroenke own the St. Louis Rams and the Glazer family controls both Manchester United and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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