When Assem Allam’s take-over bid was confirmed on 16th December 2010, fans of Hull City AFC were ecstatic. They had seen the club on the edge of administration and bankruptcy, put in this position by fraudulent previous owners. Now, finally it seemed that a local business man with significant financial backing had recognised the potential of their historic club. Upon announcing his new controlling stake in the club, Allam declared that having been a resident of Hull for many years, he understood the importance of the football club within the community and wanted to give back some of the love and support he had received from the people. What more could a club’s fans wish to hear? This wave of joy and enthusiasm however was brought crashing down around their ears when his intention to re-name the club to Hull Tigers was revealed. An institution; standing for nearly 110 years, would technically cease to exist.
The announcement was made on 9th August 2013 and was immediately met with shock and disgust by the majority of both Hull fans, and football supporters in general. The Hull City faithful had been promised their say, they had been promised detailed research into the economic value, and instead had been told by their owner that their current name conjured up visions of “lousiness” and of being “common”. This hardly came as music to their ears. He has stated that the inclusion of the word ‘Tigers’ in their name makes the club a much more marketable asset in Asia where Tigers are deep-rooted in culture and folklore. Having only been presented with opinion and zero accountable or hard evidence to this suggestion, the group ‘City Till We Die’ was formed. They have continually led the protest to the name change, but do insist that they are happy with Allam’s position as Chairman.
Earlier this year as the prospective name change drew ever closer, the FA’s membership committee held a meeting on the topic, where they resolved unanimously that the FA should reject the proposal. Met initially with a sense of relief, Hull fans were rocked once more with Assem Allam’s latest ultimatum. Should the name change not be permitted by the FA, he would put the club up for sale. Once the saviour, he now seemed to be content to leave the club well and truly in the mire once again.
There are of course groups of fans who can see his side of the argument. It is after all, legally, his club to do with as he wishes. Rescuing the future of the Tigers when doom seemed likely and returning them to the promised land of the Premier League is something that the fans should be eternally grateful for. Even if he were to now sell the club, it is a much more marketable prospect than it was when he took the reins. Huge TV deals are guaranteed for at least one more season in addition to the significant consolation prize of parachute payments should relegation become a reality. The incoming Financial Fair Play laws do indeed mean that clubs worldwide will have to find conservable sources of income and cannot rely on the investment of the owners to the extent that they have done in the past. Does this mean though that the name has to be changed? Where is the evidence to prove that there would be a significant upturn in Asian support should they be run as Hull Tigers?
With just 2 days to go until the decision would be put to the FA, results were announced of a poll taken of Hull City season ticket holders. Although it has no bearing on their decision, the outcome is important nonetheless. The name change was backed by a very small margin of only 48 votes out of the 15,033 eligible to vote. Of this number, the vast majority did not even register a vote. This is seen as a great concern by fan group ‘City Till We Die’. A large number of season ticket holders have complained that they were never granted the opportunity to vote. Either they never received their voting form, there were insufficient ballot papers at the polling stations, or the stations themselves were closed when fans arrived. This has led to fears that the vote was not conducted in a fair and transparent manner, with a secret ballot not taking place.
With a possible FA Cup Final on the horizon for Hull City; the first in their history, the concern is certainly justified. If you are seen to have voted in a manner which displeased the Hull City management, ‘City Till We Die’ are fearful that your ticket application privileges may be ‘accidentally’ overlooked. Of course this is all currently speculation, but a deep sense of unrest is present amongst the fans despite the FA’s ruling being favourable for them.
It was absolutely vital that the FA took a stand on this matter and did not buckle under the pressure of Allam’s ultimatum to sell up. It would have been ground-breaking for the FA to have gone against the advice of their membership committee and may well have paved the way for other owners to push their luck. A line simply had to be drawn to deflect the optimism that Vincent Tan and others waiting in the wings may have gained should the motion have been passed. In my view, there is no middle ground here. If a name change of any sort had been allowed, then a precedent would have been set. Where would the next limit be? Could Vincent Tan now demand that Cardiff City now be named ‘The Red Dragons’? Thank goodness the FA stood strong, and sent out a message of solidarity.
Dear Prospective Investors, should you wish to tamper with the heritage of our clubs, then you are not wanted. No amount of money can sway the love of a true fan, and without fans, clubs would die.
Should Allam follow through with his threat and leave the club, then I say good riddance!