Me & Mo – a football adventure
It is not every day you have an idea on the toilet and it ends in worldwide coverage for one of your clients.
But that’s exactly how I got to go toe-to-toe with former Harrods and Fulham FC owner, billionaire Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed.
About a year ago I was going through the news of the day, early morning, on my iPad in the bathroom at home. As you do.
Mohamed Al Fayed had sold Fulham FC to new owners and his famous Michael Jackson statue, the one he went to great personal expense to commission and erect outside Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage stadium, was being unceremoniously torn down in the full glare of the media.
The new owners wanted a new start, clearly.
Mr Al Fayed counted the former pop star Michael Jackson as a personal friend. In fact, the singer had even been to Craven Cottage to watch a Fulham match before he tragically died. So, Mr Al Fayed had paid for a statue of his friend and global icon to be built and erected in permanent tribute to his tenure as the King of Pop.
Not all at Fulham FC were fond of the artwork. I suppose it would be fair to say that it polarised opinion.
Regardless – the morning news had presented an opportunity I simply couldn’t ignore. Our client, the Manchester-based National Football Museum, should be the new home for this statue – it was, in my mind at least, a huge talking point allied to the beautiful game and the physical representation of one of the more bizarre football stories of recent years.
Some said it would never happen.
But, through a few well placed phone calls and email, I managed to get in touch with the man at the centre of the proceedings. And, after numerous discussions with the top brass at the museum, I offered his beloved Jacko statue a new permanent home at the National Football Museum in Manchester.
There was lots of debate in the intervening months and museum staff and Mohamed Al Fayed’s own team worked tirelessly to make the transfer happen.
Crucially, Mohamed Al Fayed wanted it too.
So, wind the clock forward several months and this week Mohamed Al Fayed and assorted staff flew into Manchester via private helicopter to unveil the National Football Museum’s latest acquisition.
The world’s press gathered expectantly and Mohamed duly delivered in terrific style – his sense of fun, mischief and eye for an opportunity meant he simply couldn’t resist voicing his opinion that if Fulham FC’s new owners had kept the ‘lucky’ Michael Jackson statue the club maybe wouldn’t have been relegated from the Premier League this season.
He even offered to buy the club back – at half the price.
Cue headlines across the world, with huge pieces in all the UK national press, a million and one online news and football websites and in dozens of sports pages as far away as South-east Asia, Australia, America and elsewhere.
Thanks Mo – it’s been a blast.
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