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Fulham FC offer financial support to YCST

YORK City fans fighting to save their club today secured a massive helping hand from Fulham's billionaire owner Mohammed Al Fayed

by DAVE STANFORD, YORKSHIRE EVENING PRESS

In what is believed to be a footballing first, the Harrods boss has pledged to donate the Cottagers' share of the gate receipts from Saturday's FA Cup clash at Bootham Crescent to a City Supporters' Trust.

With the game poised to be a sell-out, it could see the Trust bank around 30,000 in time for its launch on February 1.

"Football is the people's game," Al Fayed said. "It is the supporters who are the lifeblood of the game in this country.

"York is an historic club with fine traditions and it would be a tragedy for the fans if the club were to die."

He first made his generous offer direct to the board of York City within hours of Fulham's victory over Wycombe Wanderers which set up the fourth round tie last week.

The offer was declined by City chairman Douglas Craig.

Instead the Fulham owner's promise of financial aid has now been made to the Trust, a group of fans set up with the express purpose of ensuring `the continuation of professional football in York'.

The Football Association have given approval for Fulham's unprecedented gesture.

The FA takes ten per cent of gate receipts from all FA Cup matches to cover administrative costs. The remaining 90 per cent is divided equally between the two competing clubs and FA rules place no restriction on the way clubs disburse the money.

Al Fayed, who took over Fulham in the mid-1990s when it was in urgent need of investment to secure its long-term future, brought Premiership football to Craven Cottage within four years of his arrival.

He strongtly believes in the involvement of fans with their local clubs and is a strong advocate of official support for clubs in the lower divisions.

"All of us in football should do everything we can to help the smaller clubs in the lower divisions because they are the grassroots of our great game", he said.

"Everyone, from the government and the football authorities to the rich clubs in the Premiership should do all they can to make sure that smaller clubs survive in their local communities and bring pleasure to new generations of football fans."

Sophie McGill, spokeswoman for the Save City committee: "This generous pledge will help to empower the Supporters Trust in our efforts to ensure the survival of York City FC and to secure representation for supporters in the future ownership of the club.

"This heart warming response to our current plight underlines Mr Al Fayed's commitment to grass roots football and his awareness of the importance of a professional football club to the local community."

McGill, who helped broker the deal, added: "In this era when football is often viewed purely in commercial terms, it is good to see there are individuals who still have the supporters and the game's best interests at heart."

The money is only a drop in the ocean to Fulham - they recently bought French striker Steve Marlet for 11.5million. In stark contrast, City are teetering on the brink with losses of around 20,000 a week.

Any prospective new owner of the club must also find 4.5 million if they want City to continue playing their football at Bootham Crescent next season.

 
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