Craven Cottage is a football stadium located in Fulham, London. It has been the home ground of Fulham F.C. since 1896. The ground's current capacity is 25,700, all-seated, though the record attendance is 49,335, for a game against Millwall, 8 October 1938. 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.
As well as by Fulham, the stadium has been also been used by the United States men's national soccer team, Australia national football team, the Republic of Ireland national football team, and Canada men's national football team, and was formerly the home ground for rugby league team Fulham RLFC.
The original 'Cottage' was built in 1780, by William Craven, the sixth Baron 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.
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.
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 1896. 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.
One of the club's directors Henry Norris, and his friend William Hall, 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.
On 8 October 1938, 49,335 spectators watched Fulham play Millwall. The reason for this exceptionally large crowd was that the game at Stamford Bridge had suddenly been cancelled and so a lot of people made their way west to the Cottage that afternoon instead. It was the largest attendance ever at Craven Cottage and the record remains today, unlikely to be bettered as it is now an all-seater stadium with currently no room for more than 25,700. During the 1930-60's era, Fulham often averaged over 25,000. 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, and is one of the last extant that did.
It wasn't until after Fulham first reached the top division, in 1949, that further improvements were made to the stadium. In 1962 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. An electronic scoreboard was installed on the Riverside Terrace at the same time as the floodlights were installed and flagpoles flying the flags of all of the other first division teams were flown from them. Following the sale of Alan Mullery to Tottenham Hotspur in 1964 (for £72,500) the Hammersmith End had a roof put over it at a cost of approximately £42,500.
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 Eusébio). Pelé was also to appear on the ground, with a friendly played against his team Santos F.C. 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.
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 14 seconds in 1967.
Between 1980 and 1984, Fulham rugby league played their home games at the Cottage. They have since evolved into the London Crusaders, the London Broncos and Harlequins Rugby League before reverting to London Broncos ahead of the 2012 season. Craven Cottage held the team's largest ever crowd at any ground with 15,013, at a game against Wakefield Trinity on 15 February 1981.
When the Hillsborough disaster occurred in 1989, Fulham were in the second bottom rung of The Football League, but following the Taylor report Fulham's ambitious chairman Jimmy Hill tabled plans in 1996 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 FC Haka of Finland and Egaleo FC of Greece), 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. Fenway Sports Group originally partnered with Fulham in 2009, due to the perceived heritage and quirks shared between the Cottage and Fenway Park, saying no English club identifies with its stadium as much as Fulham. Boston Red Sox were later in bed with Liverpool FC, after the takeover by Fenway Sports Group.
The current stadium was one of the Premiership's smallest grounds at the time of Fulham's relegation at the end of the 2013–14 season (it was third-smallest, after the KC Stadium and the Liberty Stadium). Much admired for its fine architecture, the stadium has recently hosted a few international games, mostly including Australia. This venue is suitable for Australia because most of the country's top players are based in Europe, and West London has a significant community of expatriate Australians. Also, Greece vs. South Korea was hosted on 6 February 2007. In 2011 Brazil played Ghana, in an international friendly, and the Women's Champions League Final was hosted.
Craven Cottage often hosts many other events such as 5-a-side football tournaments and weddings. Also, many have Sunday Lunch at the Riverside restaurant or the 'Cottage Cafe' on non-match days. Craven Cottage hosted the Oxbridge Varsity Football match annually between 1991 and 2000 and again in 2003, 2006 (the same day as the famous 'Boat Race'), 2008 and 2009, and will once again host it in 2014 as well as having a Soccer Aid warm-up match in 2006. The half-time entertainment often includes the SW6ers (previously called The Cravenettes) which are a group of female cheerleaders. However, other events have included brass bands, Michael Jackson (albeit just walking on the pitch once, as opposed to performing), Travis playing, Arabic dancing, keepie uppie professionals and presentational awards. Most games also feature the 'Fulham flutter', a half-time draw; and a shoot-out competition of some kind, usually involving scoring through a 'hoop' or 'beat the goalie'. On the first home game of the season, there is a carnival where every Fulham fan is expected to turn up in black-and-white colours. There is usually live rock bands, player signings, clowns, stilt walkers, a steel (calypso) band, food stalls and a free training session for children in Bishops Park.
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 route to the ground is to walk through Bishops Park from Putney Bridge (the nearest Underground station), often known as 'The Green Mile' by Fulham fans (as it is roughly a mile walk through pleasant greenery). The Telegraph ranked the Cottage 9th out of 54 grounds to hold Premiership football.
On 27 July 2012, Fulham FC were granted permission to redevelop the Riverside Stand, 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 ambition to make Fulham the "Manchester United of the south" as it became clear how expensive such a plan would be. 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 4,000 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 museum.
More substantial plans arose in October 2011 with the 'Fulham Forever' campaign. With Al-Fayed selling his Harrods department store for £1.5 billion in May 2010 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 appeared would like to begin soon during 2012–13. Buckingham Group Contracting were chosen in March 2013 as the construction company for the project.
The Hammersmith End (or Hammy) is the northernmost stand in the ground, the closest to Hammersmith. The roofing was financed through the sale of Alan Mullery to Spurs. It is traditionally the "home" end where the more vocal Fulham fans sit, 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 hardcore fans tend to sit (or rather stand) in the back half of H6 and H7 zones (known as ‘H Block’ to the faithful). The stand had terracing until the reopening of the ground in 2004, when it was replaced with seating in order to comply with league rules following the Taylor Report. 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 reading "We Are Fulham".
The Putney End is the southernmost stand in the ground, nearest to Putney and backing onto Bishops Park. 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 2003–04 the club applied for a licence to have a designated neutral area, in the rows closest to the Cottage, (nicknamed 'Little Switzerland'.) Due to Fulham's history of having no segregation in the Putney End and no history of crowd trouble, the FA gave the club special dispensation to allow for this, making Fulham the only club currently in the UK to have such an area. Flags of every nationality in the Fulham squad were hung from the roofing, although they were removed after the 2006–07 season commenced and there is now an electronic scoreboard in place. There is a plane tree in the corner by the river, the only remaining tree in a league 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 S.L. Benfica, who included Eusébio 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 1970s, Craven Cottage flooded, with water gushing in from the Riverside. The stand houses the George Cohen restaurant, while on non-match days 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 60s, flags of all other teams in the Division 1 were proudly flown along the Thames. However, when Fulham were relegated in 1968, Trinder decided not to change the flags as "Fulham won't be in this division next season". True to Trinder's prophecy, Fulham were relegated again. The roof of the stand has been used by sponsors, with VisitFlorida currently advertising in this way, and Pipex.com, FxPro, Lee Cooper Jeans and LG having previously done so. 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.
Originally called the Stevenage Road Stand, after the road it backs onto, the Johnny Haynes stand is the oldest remaining football stand in the Football League and professional football, originally constructed in 1905, and is a Grade II* listed building. Designed by Archibald Leitch, the stand contains the ticket office and club shop and features original 'Bennet' wooden seating. Following his death in 2005, the stand was renamed after former player Johnny Haynes.
The exterior facing Stevenage Road has a brick façade 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 Craven Cottage was engraved on the façade. The family enclosures are located in the two corners of the stand, one nearest to the Hammersmith End and one nearest to the Putney End. The front of the stand now contains plastic seating, but 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 1970s.
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) is traditionally used by the players' families and friends who sit on the balcony to watch the game. In the past, board meetings used to be held in The Cottage itself as well. There is a large tapestry draped from the Cottage which says "Still Believe". It encapsulates the now-famous moment, when fans facing defeat against Hamburg SV in the Europa League semi-final roused the players with the chant of "Stand up if you still believe". 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.
On 22 February 2000, it hosted England’s under 21’s international under 21 friendly against Argentina’s under 21s. The hosts won 1–0 with Lee Hendrie’s sixty seventh-minute goal with 15,747 in attendance.
In recent years, Craven Cottage has hosted several International Friendly matches, including the Ireland national team who played Colombia and Nigeria there in May 2008 and May 2009 respectively and Oman in 2012. The South Korea national football team have also used the ground thrice in recent years for international friendlies, first against Greece in February 2007 second against Serbia in November 2009, and then against Croatia in February 2013. On 17 November 2007 Australia beat Nigeria 1–0 in an international friendly at Craven Cottage.  On 26 May 2011, Craven Cottage hosted the game of 2011 UEFA Women's Champions League Final between Lyon and Potsdam. In September 2011, a friendly between Ghana and Brazil was also held at Craven Cottage. On 15 October 2013, Australia beat Canada 3–0 at Craven Cottage. On 28 May 2014 Scotland played out a 2–2 draw with a Nigerian team who had qualified for the 2014 World Cup Finals.
In March 2018 Australia will play host to Colombia.
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