Pre-season’s only just started yet this Saturday could be Hull City’s biggest day of the 2015-16 season. How so? Because the FA Council are set to rule on another of the Allams’ attempts to rebrand the club “Hull Tigers”.
Back in March 2014 the FA’s Membership Committee rejected the rebrand, a recommendation which was ratified by the FA Council a few weeks later.
All seemed well in the world: the FA had listened to a long campaign by fans to protect their club’s name – an FSF poll showed that 89.8% of our Hull City-supporting members opposed the change.
The City Till We Die group (since merged with Tigers Co-operative to create the Hull City Supporters’ Trust) led a tremendous campaign to protect their club’s 111-year heritage with great dignity.
It’s a shame the same couldn’t be said of the Allams who initially promised to consult fans (“I give my word”), then told protestors “they can die as soon as they want”, before running a comically loaded ballot.
Hull City owners Assem and Ehab Allam both claim the Tigers brand would be more marketable at a global level compared to “City” which is apparently “lousy” and “common” – their words, not ours!
Surely an experienced, self-made millionaire such as Allam would come up with a water-tight business case for such a move, complete with detailed financial projections and expert opinion?
Well you’d think so, wouldn’t you...
“He [Allam] appreciated that a business case for the change was desirable, yet no professionally prepared business plan or case was provided,” say the FA. So basically it was drawn up on the back of a fag packet. What else did Allam have up his sleeve?
Well, there’s the old argument that since he’d “invested” in the club (i.e. loaned it money), he should have the right to do whatever he wants. We don’t buy that either. By definition it means that any owner whose club lives within its means and balances the books has less rights than an owner who has the club in hock. Hardly good governance principles, there.
The Allams have also had various disputes with the local authorities – Hull City Council wrote to the club threatening legal action following a facilities dispute in April 2015 while The Independent said the council were among Allam’s “perceived enemies”.
In March local BBC journalist David Burns tweeted:
@englishtiger2 He admits the row with the Council is at the root of it. He feels the fans should have asked more questions of the council.— David Burns (@bbcburnsy) March 24, 2015
It’s an admission of what fans have long suspected - the Allams’ discontent with their local authority is at the heart of their attempts to distance “their” club from the word “City”.
What do fans think now?
Hull City Supporters’ Trust polled fans in April 2015 with 770 member votes cast. 764 (99.2%) said they wanted to retain the Hull City name, while only six voted for Hull Tigers. That was based on a pretty high turnout of 71% of members.
Hull City Official Supporters’ Club also balloted members, with 704 members voting, of which 459 said “no” to Hull Tigers, with 240 saying “yes”, and five spoiled ballots. Not quite the landslide that the trust saw but still pretty overwhelming.
Supporters should have the final say in approving any change - and don’t just take our word for it - the tribunal judgement reported that to be the Football League’s position too: “The case for change should be considered to be proven by those who will have the greatest understanding of its impact, namely the club’s supporters.”
There’s a certain irony to all of this taking place at a time when the Government’s Expert Working Group on Football Supporter Ownership and Engagement is ongoing. One of the buzzwords in modern politics is “engagement” – and we think proper engagement is a good thing.
And what could be a more fundamental topic for engagement than the very name of your club? The picture at Hull City could not be clearer – fans simply do not want to see the name of their club changed, yet the owners wish to swot that aside. The Allams want to disengage.
Never mind the voices of tens of thousands of Hull City fans - the FA Council need only listen to the recommendations of its very own Membership Committee and reject the Allams’ proposal.
Anything else is a betrayal of the club’s 111-year history.