After major refurbishment work was carried out in 2004, the ground's capacity has increased gradually from 22,000 to its current capacity of 25,700. Fulham recorded four record attendances in the 2009–2010 season, in their 0–1 loss to Arsenal and their 3–1, 3–0 and 2–1 victories over Liverpool, Manchester United and Hamburg respectively, each of which drew full capacity crowds. The official record with standing room remains 49,335 for the game against Millwall, on 8 October 1938.
It is located next to Bishop's Park on the banks of the River Thames. Craven Cottage was originally a royal hunting lodge and has history dating back over 300 years. The stadium has been used by the Australian national football team for some friendly matches due to a large expatriate population living in England (mainly in London). The Republic of Ireland national football team also played two games at the venue during the construction of their Aviva Stadium.
The original 'Cottage' was built in 1780, by William Craven, and was located on the centre circle of the pitch. At the time, the surrounding areas were woods which made up part of Anne Boleyn's hunting grounds. Several other sports may have taken place here, such as lawn bowls, croquet and possibly a version of the Aztec game called 'tlachtli' (scoring a ball through a hoop using your hips). This game is thought to be a distant cousin of association football and is arguably one of the earliest codes of organised football.
The Cottage was lived in by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (who wrote The Last Days of Pompeii) and other somewhat notable (and moneyed) persons until it was destroyed by fire in May 1888. Many rumours persist among Fulham fans of past tenants of Craven Cottage. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jeremy Bentham, Florence Nightingale and even Queen Victoria are reputed to have stayed there, although there is no real evidence for this. Following the fire, the site was abandoned. Fulham had had 8 previous grounds before settling in at Craven Cottage for good. Therefore, The Cottagers have had 12 grounds overall (including a temporary stay at Loftus Road), meaning that only their former 'landlords' and rivals QPR have had more home grounds (14) in British football. Of particular note, was Ranelagh House, Fulham's palatial home from 1886–1888.
Under construction: 1894–1905Edit
When representatives of Fulham first came across the land, in 1894, it was so overgrown that it took two years to be made suitable for football to be played on it. A deal was struck for the owners of the ground to carry out the work, in return for which they would receive a proportion of the gate receipts. The first football match at which there were any gate receipts was when Fulham played against Minerva in the Middlesex Senior Cup, on 10 October 1886. The ground's first stand was built shortly after. Described as looking like an "orange box", it consisted of four wooden structures each holding some 250 seats, and later was affectionately nicknamed the "rabbit hutch". In 1904, London County Council became concerned with the level of safety at the ground, and tried to get it closed. A court case followed in January 1905, as a result of which Archibald Leitch, a Scottish architect who had risen to prominence after his building of the Ibrox Stadium, a few years earlier, was hired to work on the stadium. In a scheme costing £15,000 (a record for the time), he built a pavilion (the present-day 'Cottage' itself) and the Stevenage Road Stand, in his characteristic red brick style. The stand on Stevenage Road celebrated its centenary in the 2005–2006 season and, following the death of Fulham FC's favourite son, former England captain Johnny Haynes, in a car accident in October 2005 the Stevenage Road Stand was renamed the Johnny Haynes Stand after the club sought the opinions of Fulham supporters. Both the Johnny Haynes Stand and Cottage remain among the finest examples of Archibald Leitch football architecture to remain in existence and both have been designated as Grade II listed buildings.
Establishing itself as a stadiumEdit
An England v Wales match was played at the ground in 1911, followed by a rugby league international between England and Australia.
One of the club's directors Henry Norris, and his friend William Hill, took over Arsenal in the early 1910s, the plan being to merge Fulham with Arsenal, to form a "London superclub" at Craven Cottage. This move was largely motivated by Fulham's failure thus far to gain promotion to the top division of English football. There were also plans for Henry Norris to build a larger stadium on the other side of Stevenage Road but there was little need after the merger idea failed. During this era, the Cottage was used for choir singing and marching bands along with other performances, and Mass. In 1933 there were plans to demolish the ground and start again from scratch with a new 80,000 capacity stadium. These plans never materialised mainly due to the Great Depression. During the 1930-60's era, Fulham often averaged over 45,000. However, the official attendances can be considered somewhat dubious in this era as many fans would get in by climbing over the fence from Bishops Park into the Putney End. As at many other grounds, fans would sometimes pay at the turnstiles but not be counted. This boot money would be given to the players (stuffed in their boots) and would not be counted in the gate money. The ground hosted several football games for the 1948 Summer Olympics.
It wasn't until after Fulham first reached the top division, in 1949, that further improvements were made to the stadium. In 1950 Fulham became the final side in the first division to erect floodlights. The floodlights were said to be the most expensive in Europe at the time as they were so modern. The lights were like large pylons towering 50 metres over the ground and were similar in appearance to those at the WACA Ground. The Hammersmith End had a roof put over it, and an electronic scoreboard was erected. Although Fulham was relegated, the development of Craven Cottage continued. The Riverside terracing, infamous for the fact that fans occupying it would turn their heads annually to watch The Boat Race pass, was replaced by what was officially named the 'Eric Miller Stand', Eric Miller being a director of the club at the time. The stand, which cost £334,000 and held 4,200 seats, was opened with a friendly game against Benfica in February 1972, (which included Eusebio). Pele was also to appear on the ground, with a friendly played against his team Santos The Miller stand bought the seated capacity up to 11,000 out of a total 40,000. Eric Miller committed suicide five years later after a political and financial scandal, and had shady dealing with trying to move Fulham away from the Cottage. The stand is now better known as the Riverside Stand. The Riverside bank also was unique for the fact that flags of all the other teams of the first division were flown along the promenade.
On Boxing Day 1963, Craven Cottage was the venue of the fastest hat-trick in the history of the English football league, which was completed in less than three minutes, by Graham Leggat. This helped his Fulham team to beat Ipswich 10–1 (a club record). The international record is held by Jimmy O'Connor, an Irish player who notched up his hat trick in 2 minutes 13 seconds in 1967.
When the Hillsborough disaster occurred, Fulham were in the second bottom rung of the Football League, but following the Taylor report Fulham's ambitious chairman Jimmy Hill tabled plans for an all-seater stadium. These plans never came to fruition, partly due to local residents' pressure groups, and by the time Fulham reached the Premiership, they still had standing areas in the ground, something virtually unheard of at the time. A year remained to do something about this (teams reaching the second tier for the first time are allowed a three-year period to reach the required standards for the top two divisions), but by the time the last league game was played there, against Leicester City on 27 April 2002, no building plans had been made. Two more Intertoto Cup games were played there later that year (against Egaleo of Greece and FC Haka of Finland), and the eventual solution was to decamp to Loftus Road, home of local rivals QPR. During this time, many Fulham fans only went to away games in protest of moving from Craven Cottage. 'Back to the Cottage', later to become the 'Fulham Supporters Trust', was set up as a fans pressure group to encourage the chairman and his advisers that Craven Cottage was the only viable option for Fulham Football Club. After one and a half seasons at Loftus Road, no work had been done on the Cottage. In December 2003, plans were unveiled for £8million worth of major refurbishment work to bring it in line with Premier League requirements. With planning permission granted, work began in January 2004 in order to meet the deadline of the new season. The work proceeded as scheduled and the club were able to return to their home for the start of the 2004–05 season. Their first game in the new-look 22,000 all-seater stadium was a pre-season friendly against Watford on 10 July 2004.
The Fulham Ladies (before their demise) and Reserve teams occasionally play home matches at the Cottage. Other than this, they generally play at the club's training ground at Motspur Park or at Kingstonian and AFC Wimbledon's stadium, Kingsmeadow. Craven Cottage is known by several affectionate nicknames from fans, including: The (River) Cottage, The Fortress (or Fortress Fulham), Thameside, The Friendy Confines, SW6, Lord of the Banks, The House of Hope, The Pavilion of Perfection, The 'True' Fulham Palace and The Palatial Home. The Thames at the banks of the Cottage is often referred to as 'Old Father' or The River of Dreams. The most accessible to get to the ground is to walk through Bishops Park from Putney Bridge, often known as 'The Green Mile' by Fulham fans (as it is roughly a mile walk through pleasant greenery).
Craven Cottage is where most Fulham fans would like to be, although the club might prefer a more lucrative situation – a larger ground enabling greater ticket revenue. In 2011, Fulham indicated their preferred solution would be increasing the capacity of Craven Cottage to 30,000 seats. Beforehand various rumours arose including plans to return to ground-sharing with QPR in a new 40,000 seater White City stadium, although these now appear firmly on hold with the construction of the Westfield shopping centre on the proposed site. The board seem to have moved away from their grandiose ideas of making Fulham the "Manchester United of the south" as Al-Fayed has come to realise how expensive it is to subsidise a Premiership outfit. Yet Fulham's comfortable Premier League table positions in the previous years and the fact that, for the previous three seasons the ground has been filled to capacity, means stadium expansion is a viable option. With large spaces of land at a premium in south-west London, Fulham appear to be committed to a gradual increase of the ground's capacity often during the summer between seasons. The capacity of Craven Cottage has been increased during summers for instance in 2008 with a small increase in the capacity of the Hammersmith End. Fulham previously announced in 2007 that they are planning to increase the capacity of Craven Cottage by 4000 seats, but this is yet to be implemented. There was also proposals for a bridge to span the Thames, for a redeveloped Riverside stand and a musuem.
More substantial plans arose in October 2011 with the 'Fulham Forever' campaign. With Al-Fayed selling his Harrods department store for £1.5 billion it is reasonable to presume that some of this money which has kick-started this larger scale plan into life. A detailed plan into the possibilities of expansion highlighted the Riverside Stand as the only viable area for expansion. The scheme involves the demolition of the back of the Riverside Stand with a new tier of seating added on top of the current one and a row of corporate boxes; bringing Craven Cottage up to 30,000 capacity. As this would be a major project in a sensitive area the club has taken into consideration many points local residents may have problems with. The riverside walk would be re-opened, light pollution would be reduced with the removal of floodlight masts, new access points would make match-day crowds more manageable and the new stand would be respectful in design to its position on the River Thames. Although there is no time scheme for when the project will begin, the club is already far into the consultation phase and it appears would like to begin soon during 2012-13.
The ground as it standsEdit
The Hammersmith End (or Hammy) is the northernmost stand in the ground, and, hence the name, the closest to Hammersmith. It is situated such that looking out from the stand you can see the Putney End and the Cottage opposite, the Riverside Stand (and the river itself) to the right and the Johnny Haynes Stand to the left. The roofing on the 'Smithy' was financed through the sale of Alan Mullery to Tottenham. It is home to the more vocal Fulham fans,and many stand during games at the back rows of the stand. If Fulham win the toss, they usually choose to play towards the Hammersmith End in the second half. The stand had terracing until the 2001/02 season, were by Premiership law stemming from the Taylor Report meant seat re-development. For several seasons, national flags of the players represented at Fulham were hung from the roof. There is a large permanent banner in the river corner which proudly states "We Are Fulham".
The Putney End is the southernmost stand in the ground, nearest to Putney and Bishops Park. To its right is The Cottage, opposite is the Hammersmith End, with the Riverside and Johnny Haynes Stands to left and right respectively. This generally hosts visiting and 'neutral' supporters, though often this is mixed with home and away fans. When the ground became redeveloped, with the standing terraces replaced in the 2003-04 season (during Fulham's exile to Loftus Road) the club applied for a licence to have a designated neutral area, in the rows closest to the Cottage, (affectionately nicknamed 'Little Switzerland'). Due to Fulham's history of having no segregation in the Putney End and having very well-behaved fans, the FA gave Fulham special dispensation to allow for this. Fulham is the only club currently in the UK to have such an area. Fans can wear whatever shirt and support either side in this area, leading to friendly banter. Flags of every nationality in the Fulham squad were hung from the roofing, although they were retracted after the 2006–07 season commenced. In recent years, there has been an electronic scoreboard in place. There is a plane tree in the corner by the river, the only remaining tree in a senior British football ground.
The Riverside was originally terracing that backed onto the Thames. It also featured large advertising hoardings above the fans. By 1973, a proper seated stand had been built called the Eric Miller Stand (one of the directors at the time). The stand was opened in a prestigious friendly against Benfica, who included Eusebio in the team. The name of the stand became called simply The Riverside after the discovery of Eric Miller's suicide, who had been under investigation for fraud and embezzlement. The Riverside Stand backs onto the River Thames and is elevated uniquely above the pitch unlike the other 3 stands. It contains the corporate hospitality seating alongside Fulham fans. Jimmy Hill once referred to the Riverside being "a bit like the London Palladium" as Blocks V & W (the middle section) are often filled with the rich and famous (including often Al-Fayed). There are several Harrods advertising boardings and above these is the gantry, for the press and cameras. Tickets in this area are often the easiest to buy, not surprisingly they are also some of the more expensive. It has the Hammersmith End to its left, the Putney End to its right and is opposite the Johnny Haynes Stand. During the 70's, Craven Cottage flooded, with water gushing in from the Riverside. On non-match days, the George Cohen restaurant is open providing posh-nosh from Harrods or alternatively there is the Cottage Cafe, located near to the Cottage itself (The River Café is also located nearby). Under Tommy Trinder's chairmanship in the 60's, flags of all other teams in the First Division were proudly flown along the Thames. However, when Fulham were relegated in 1969, Trinder decided not to change the flags as "Fulham won't be in this division next season". True to Tommy's prophecy, Fulham were relegated again. The Riverside Stand has been used by sponsors, placing adverts on top of the covering, sponsors who have used this include Pipex.com and Lee Cooper Jeans. The end of the Riverside Stand towards the 'Smithy' End' indicates the end of the 'Fulham Wall', which is the mile post in The Boat Race.
Johnny Haynes StandEdit
This grand old lady of football stands was formerly named after the street which runs alongside it, hence Stevenage Road Stand. Shortly after the untimely passing of of Fulham's greatest player Johnny Haynes; on 27 November 2005 it was renamed the Johnny Haynes Stand. It holds home supporters of which a lot are season ticket holders and is located opposite the Riverside Stand, with the Putney End and the Cottage to its left, and the Hammersmith end to the right. This stand includes the ticket office and club shop, as well as nostalgic original wooden seats. There used to be an exact replica built by Leitch at Stamford Bridge which had long been demolished. This remains the oldest stand (dating back to 1905) not only in the Football League, but in the professional world and is thus a Grade II listed building thanks to Jimmy Hill's efforts when saving the almost-bankrupt club as Chairman. (The oldest football stand in the world is considered to belong to Great Yarmouth Town, though Wolverton A.F.C. dispute this, although this is no longer in use as a football stand). The original wooden Bennet seats as specified by Leitch in 1905 now number 3,571, remain as robust as ever. Due to parts of the structure being wooden and the smoking ban, there was a historic no-smoking policy in this part of the ground, and indeed now the whole ground with national laws. During Europa League games, due to UEFA specifications, the last blocks nearest to the Cottage are used to house away fans rather then the Putney stand. This almost led to trouble in a 2011 Group K match against Wisła Kraków, when Polish fans let off a flare and the roof appeared to be smoking.
The exterior facing Stevenage Road has a brick façade rarely seen amongst modern stadia and features the club's old emblem in the artwork. Decorative pillars show the club's foundation date as 1880 though this is thought to be incorrect. Also, a special stone to commemorate Fulham 2000 and The Cottagers return to 'The Cottage' was engraved on the façade. The family enclosure is located in the corner nearest to the Hammersmith end. The stand also features very narrow and rickety turnstiles that all must pass through. The 2006–07 season saw the club introduce new RFID tickets, which are read electronically when passing through the gates. Where the new plastic seating lies (in front of the wooden seats), originally was a standing area. Children were often placed at the front of this enclosure and the area had a distinctive white picket fence to keep fans off the pitch (up until the 1970's).
The Cottage Pavilion dates back to 1905 along with the Johnny Haynes Stand, built by renowned football architect Archibald Leitch. The reason The Cottage was built was due to an oversight in the Stevenage Road Stand (as it was then), as Leitch had forgotten to accommodate changing rooms in his final plans. Besides being the changing rooms, the Cottage (also called The Clubhouse) was traditionally used by the players' families and friends who sit on the balcony to watch the game, but the club now sell those seats at a premium game-by-game rate. (Club have reported that they do not sell the cottage seats but are for players families to watch the game and that have no plans to change that) In the past, board meetings used to be held in The Cottage itself as well. There is a large trapestry draped from the Cottage which says "Stand up if you still believe". It encapsulates the now-famous moment, when fans facing defeat against Hamburg in the Europa League semi-final roused the players with the inspirational chant. In the three other corners of the ground there are what have been described as large 'filing cabinets', which are corporate boxes on three levels.
- Record Attendance: 49,335 v Millwall, 8 October 1938 - Second Division (attendances up until the 1970s were notorious for being inaccuarate with specatators sneaking in, or being hustled in for boot money)
- Record Modern Seated Attendance: 25,700 v Arsenal on Saturday 26 September 2009 - Premier League (achieved several times since)
Fulham's Average League AttendancesEdit
- 1997-98: 9,004
- 1998-99: 11,387
- 1999-00: 13,092
- 2000-01: 14,985
- 2001-02: 19,389
- 2002-03: 16,707 (played at Loftus Road)
- 2003-04: 16,342 (played at Loftus Road)
- 2004-05: 19,838
- 2005-06: 20,654
- 2006-07: 22,279
- 2007-08: 23,774
- 2008-09: 24,343
- 2009-10: 23,909
- 2010-11: 25,043
- 2011-12: 22,611
- 2012-13: 24,848
- 2013-14: 24,977
- 2014-15: 18,268
- 2015-16: 17,566
- 2016-17: tbd
- Fulham Rugby League Club played at Craven Cottage between 1980 and 1984, hosting their largest attendance. The ground has also hosted Oxbridge varsity matches in rugby and football.
- The ground has hosted the most Socceroos matches outside of Australia and was one of the pioneers in hosting neutral international friendlies.
- Fulham were the last team to have standing accommodation in the Premier League, as Craven Cottage included terraces in the 2001–02 season – eight years after the Taylor Report outlawed terraces at this level.
- The original Craven Cottage site was covered in woodlands. One plane tree survives today in a corner of the Putney End, the sole tree to be found in any British senior football stadium.
- On 3 April 2011, Fulham unveiled a statue of Michael Jackson inside the stadium before its match with Blackpool. The singer, who died in 2009, was not a Fulham fan and had no interest in football whatsoever, but attended a Fulham match once, saying "Fulham fans were like people at my concerts. I wanted to jump up and start dancing"