The new Riverside Stand has made headlines for the wrong reasons lately, with season tickets costing up to £3,000 – but what’s it like to sit there? Rhys Daly paid a visit.
A last-minute change in circumstances that gave me an opportunity to see Fulham’s record-breaking Premier League season edge to a conclusion swiftly turned into a moral conundrum.
Fulham hosting Crystal Palace in their final home game of the season was always going to be a sell-out – with no prizes for guessing which stand was last to go.
Only £90 tickets in the new Riverside Stand remained when I was tasked with finding a seat. I justified the price to myself by saying there’d be no competitive football at Craven Cottage again until August.
But more than that, I was curious about what has become one of the most talked about stands in the Premier League – with adult season ticket prices of between £1,250 and £3000, the most expensive in the topflight.
After passing Bishops Park, Craven Cottage, the entirety of the Stevenage Road facade, and then past several side roads, fans are guided left towards the Thames by stewards, before being greeted by a small entrance with just five cosy turnstiles.
Entry into the ground provides an immediate view of the sun beaming down on the river, with another row of staff to separate the Hammersmith End from the Riverside.
Pies and pints await in the open-plan concourse, which has countless booths to purchase food and drink – with the self-pour machines going somewhat unnoticed.
Standing in the sun with the view of the water was undeniably special, as was the feeling of walking up the new stand to take a padded seat with a fine view of the action as well as the London skyline.
A spattering of empty chairs, as well as about 10 rows across the top of the stand, played a part in an atmosphere that was wholly different to the raucous H5.
Chanting didn’t quite feel appropriate throughout the fixture, with seated fans seemingly content on watching in peace. Standing to see the Putney End goal wasn’t possible without blocking the view of fans to the left.
Half-time was another opportunity to watch boats go past the Cottage as fans enjoyed the fine weather – which no doubt plays a major part in the experience of the new stand, which has been funded by Shahid Khan.
Despite the comfort, I couldn’t help but feel the pull of my usual seat as Aleksandar Mitrovic fired Fulham into the lead, with the Riverside Stand having the price of a hospitality spot but not all of the benefits.
Despite being impressed by the facilities, view and seating, there was a perpetual guilt knowing that the experience on a season-long basis is just not viable for the vast majority.
Despite the backlash, Fulham recently publicised that the season-tickets in the new stand have sold out entirely.
Although the new stand should be something to be proud of for Fulham fans – who have witnessed their club transition from Division Three strugglers to European challengers, before again finding their feet in the top flight – it has only been divisive.
The challenge posed to the club is to heal the divide with supporters over the architectural feat – but the truth is – it will take some doing.