Fulham's ambition to match the elite of the Premiership must be dictated by our ability to generate revenues from money at the gate. Are we ready to go to the next level?
Our deep emotional attachment to Craven Cottage and football down by the river is both our strength and weakness. It is the 'tie that binds,' in the words of Johnny Cash. We all recognise the unique heritage invested in our quirky West London home that makes it as much a favourite among visiting fans as with ourselves.
Take the packed houses who experienced the heartstopping drama of our midweek Europa League ties last spring. TV and DVD's cannot come close to conveying the electric atmosphere that built over the heads of those lucky enough to be inside the ground. 25,000 people ceased to be individuals for a few brief minutes. Hemmed in by the chill night they morphed into one gigantic ball of energy - as vital as life itself - at the final whistle. 25,000 men, women and children as eucharist, embodying the very substance and soul of Fulham Football Club.
From a previous generation I still vividly recall as a schoolboy standing among the 47,000 plus crowd for our 2-2 draw with Man United in 1967, our largest post-war attendance. That of course was on banked terracing of a type never to be seen again. But taking the Wigan game as an example of Fulham's growing box office appeal, I wonder if the Club might soon see fit to add another 3,000 or so to our ground capacity?
The feasability study and build plan already exists to basically fill in the four corners. A more ambitious plan to make the Putney End a two tier monstrosity would involve some goodwill from the local planning department, as this requires new exit ramps and a slice of Bishops Park to get people away from the ground safely, but don't rule it out. That could take us up above 30,000, and generate £4 million more pounds per season over 19 home games if we continue selling out.
Examining attendance figures from recent Wigan games show we are clearly adding extra box office appeal. We sold out this season's game on the back of an indifferent run and with virtually no away support. That was an improvement of 3,000 from last April's fixture. I'll skip the 2008 home game as it was midweek, so going back a further season to 2007, our Wigan game then, albeit when we were in the bottom three, attracted 20,000.
I do know the executive at the club said last season they wanted clear evidence of a permanent growth to our fan base before pushing ahead with further ground alterations. With Aston Villa also sold out 8 days in advance, I would suggest the time has come for action.