I wasn’t going to mention Hull City too much on this blog, wanting it to be a general football one, but the headlines in today’s Independent newspaper made it so that it became necessary.
For the chairman of Hull City AFC, Assem Allam (I’m not comfortable with lauding his honorary doctorate) to state ““I don’t mind ‘City till we die’. They can die as soon as they want, as long as they leave the club for the majority who just want to watch good football.” is jaw-droppingly ill-considered. If the club do have a PR/Marketing department, they must all be either tearing their hair out, or just feigning acquiescence in his wishes.
It would appear that it all comes from his belief that Hull City Council would agree to his plans, because of his spending on the development of the area and the increase in revenue it could have brought to the city. However, one thing that he forgot, in his haze of grand ideas, was that the stadium and the land on which it was built, West Park, belongs to the council and therefore the people of the city. For once, it appeared the council decided that they were responsible to the council tax payers of the city and decided to turn the offer down, in spite of what it could have brought to the area. For once, Mr Allam was turned down and he has taken it very badly.
His reaction has been the desire to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers, removing City from it in response to what the council decided to do; removing all mention of the word City to drive out any memory of the decision and to spite the council into the bargain.
The problem as I see it is purely a commercial one. Mr Allam has build his considerable fortune in the world of marine engineering, in which I doubt there is any real need to have any emotional attachment to a product; if it doesn’t work, you don’t buy it. Mr Allam’s autocracy may well be what works in that industry where you are only responsible to your company or board of directors, and your marketing strategy will decide if you rise or fall. Mr Allam thinks he can generate enough from marketing the club as Hull Tigers overseas to cover the shortfall from his failed development plans, yet he has shown no proposals or plans to anyone how it will be done. It’s results and success that will drive successful overseas marketing campaigns, not just a change of name.
Football is not JUST a business though, it is an integral part of the community in which it is based. People devote their lives to their club, investing money through season tickets, merchandise and sponsorship. Fans have a connection to the club through thick and thin, and feel deeply about the traditions surrounding the club. To be effectively told that it’s not important, is almost unbelievable to them.
There are still some ‘fans’ (those who I think have no interest in being the kind of fan described above), who would prefer to stay in the Premier League at any price, even to the point of changing the name, just to keep Mr Allam at the club. These people, in my mind, are no better than those before WW2 who tried to champion the policy of ‘appeasement’. Strong words I know, but if their only reason for buying a season ticket or watching Hull City is because of their position in the Premier League then I have no time for them. Yes, I want City to be successful at the highest league possible, but not on these grounds.
The campaign group City Till We Die, in response to the article this morning, produced a statement which was measured & reasonable. “The intemperate suggestion that singing ‘City Till I Die’ or holding a banner with Hull City’s name on it constitutes disorder is ill-informed, unhelpful and will be considered by many to be offensive; nor is it credible to believe that such measured actions will have any effect upon the team. We reiterate our advice to all City fans to continue their fine support for our fantastic team while positively expressing a preference for our current name. We remain committed to working with the club on this and other issues. We are particularly mindful of Dr Allam’s comments when he took over the club in 2010 about broadening supporters’ representation at Hull City AFC. We are keen to assist the club with establishing this.”
It would appear that Mr Allam has only one idea of fan representation, and that’s to be round a table when he proposes an idea, then to nod your head and say yes like nodding dogs. No, Mr Allam. You might find the synthetic fans mentioned above are happy to do that – they have Premier League football so they are content – but those of us for whom the club, the tradition and the history are as important, we will never accept on those terms.
To close, City Till We Die have said “We praise Hull City owner Dr Assem Allam for his fabulous work in rescuing the club and bringing it to the Premier League – but we disagree with his name change proposal.” That is the basis for the opposition, the sole basis. They are not against what he has done, just what he intends to do. When the world of football thinks its not the right thing to do, is there anyone who can seriously think it’s right?