The Fulham Supporters’ Trust began life as the Back to the Cottage campaign, formed after Fulham Football Club announced it had dropped plans to develop Craven Cottage on the lines of the planning permission received in February 2001.
What began as a group of like-minded fans distributing leaflets and engaging the media to seek answers to a number of pertinent questions, soon developed into organisation campaigning under the Back to the Cottage banner.
Following a packed meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall, fans decided to establish a Supporters’ Trust, following the successful model in place at more than 100 clubs across England, Scotland and Wales. The Trust is wholly independent of Fulham Football Club and was set up with the assistance of Supporters Direct, a government-funded initiative who aim to help fans “who wish to play a reasonable part in the life of the football club they support.”
A series of meetings with local authority representatives, politicians and advice from planners, architects and business people helped the Trust put up a convincing case that, counter to the club’s position, a return to Craven Cottage was not only viable, but the only way to secure Fulham’s future. The campaign was helped by generous donations from Fulham fans and support from former Fulham players and coaches as well as the wider footballing community. The club announced on 3 September 2003 that they would return to Craven Cottage – and Fulham played their first competitive game back at their historic home against Bolton in August 2004.
Following Fulham’s successful return to Craven Cottage, the Trust worked hard to represent the views of Fulham fans to both the Club and the football authorities. We supported a number of initiatives designed to promote the Club’s history and also promoted several books about the history of Fulham Football Club. Members of the Trust became involved in the campaign to pay tribute to Fulham’s finest ever player, Johnny Haynes, outside Craven Cottage, which culminated in the production of the statue that stands on Stevenage Road today.
The Trust also became far more active on the national stage. Members of the Trust board became heavily involved in the supporters’ trust movement, supporting the establishment of supporters’ trusts at clubs up and down the country, and taking elected roles in both Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation. The Trust supplied written evidence to two Parliamentary inquiries into the governance of English football and also helped with the production of Supporters Direct policy papers on how best to reform the game.
The Trust also actively worked to support local charities and strengthen links between the Fulham fanbase and the Club’s award-winning Fulham Foundation. Many Trust members volunteered time and money to support several Foundation projects, including the Fulham Memories project, the walking football scheme and matchday activities designed to boost awareness of the Foundation’s work.
In 2014 the Trust began a regular Structured Dialogue with the Club which continues today. It provides a crucial link between the supporters and the Club’s staff at the highest level and has been used regularly to solve problems, introduce fan-oriented initiatives and, in general, make sure that Fulham’s supporters are at the heart of the Club’s decision making.