Fulham secured a return to the Premier League after four years away and a windfall of at least $210 million by beating Aston Villa 1-0 in the second-tier English playoff final on Saturday.
Tom Cairney netted probably the most lucrative goal he’ll ever score by calmly sidefooting home a finish in the 23rd minute at Wembley Stadium, ensuring Fulham joined Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff in getting promoted from the League Championship.
Villa, captained by former Chelsea defender John Terry and seeking to get back in the top flight after a two-year absence, dominated the second half — and Fulham’s players bid to defend their lead was made even harder when defender Denis Odoi was sent off in the 70th minute for a second yellow card.
They succeeded, and will play in the Premier League for the first time since relegation in 2014 ended 13 straight seasons in the world’s wealthiest and most-watched division.
By winning the sport’s richest single game, Fulham guaranteed future additional revenue of at least 160 million pounds ($210 million) from prize money and broadcast deals, according to the sports business group of accountancy firm Deloitte.
That figure could rise to in excess of 280 million pounds ($370 million) if the club from southwest London survives its first season back in the Premier League.
Fulham finished third in the regular season, making it the highest placed of the four teams that entered the playoffs. Many pundits felt Slavisa Jokanovic’s side played the best football in the second tier.
“After we missed out on promotion, a lot of people wrote us off,” Cairney said. “We got a lot of stick. But football won today. Football won.”
Fulham is owned by Shahid Khan, who recently placed an offer to buy Wembley for about 600 million pounds ($840 million). He also owns Jacksonville Jaguars and wants an NFL presence in London.
Ryan Sessegnon set up the goal for Cairney with a pinpoint through-ball, continuing his influential role for Fulham this season and especially in the playoffs. The 19-year-old left-sided player is widely regarded as one of the most talented youngsters in the English game and he will be able to test himself on the country’s highest stage next season.
“We’ve brought the club back where it should be,” on-loan striker Aleksandar Mitrovic said.
Source: Associated Press