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The 200% Podcast 12 – General Election Special
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The Decline & Fall Of Leyton Orient
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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
As an increasing number of foreign owners come into football in this country, the debate over whether they might be good or bad for the game becomes increasingly muddied. It’s easy to the point of facile to get stuck in the ‘foreign owners are bad because they’re foreign’ line of thinking, but this is an argument that almost wilfully overlooks the fact that there have been plenty of dreadful club owners that have been entirely domestically produced and that nationality alone isn’t a terribly reliable way of defining whether an owner has the best interests of their club or themselves at heart.
In some cases, a football club owner can be very good and very bad at the same time. To pluck one example from thin air, it could be argued – simultaneously and without one argument necessarily contradicting the other – that Stan Kroenke has been very good for Arsenal in ensuring that his club remains out of the choppy financial waters in which so many of his fellow clubs have found themselves in recent years, whilst also pointing out that, during a period in which the richest clubs have an opportunity to hoover up all before them in ways that they never have done before, Arsenal, one of England’s richest clubs, have now stagnated on the pitch to such an extent that eight years have now passed without the club winning a major trophy. It’s possible, therefore, to argue that any individual can be both a good and bad owner of a football club at the same time.
All of which brings us on to the somewhat touchy subject of Hull City. This club passed onto the ownership of the Egyptian-born Assem Allam in December of 2010 for the princely sum of £1, with the promise of a further £30m of investment to follow. It’s difficult to argue that Allam’s time in charge of the club hasn’t been successful. Steve Bruce’s team hit the right form at the right time last season and squeezed into the Championship’s second automatic promotion spot behind Cardiff City. But what should have been a summer of anticipation and excitement for supporters of the club has been tempered by a drip, drip, drip of information which has led many to the conclusion that Allam is attempting a rebrand of the club which will see its name change from Hull City AFC to Hull City Tigers.
It all started with some changes so surreptitious that all by the sharpest-eyed might easily have been forgiven for having missed it. At the Hull City AFC Player Of The Year awards in April, it was noted that a subtle change to the club’s badge had been made, altering it from saying “Hull City AFC – The Tigers” to just “Hull City Tigers”. Shortly afterwards, a little light checking with Companies House confirmed that the came of the club’s parent company had been changed in March of this year from “Hull City Association Football Club (Tigers) Limited” to just “Hull City Tigers Limited.” Nick Thompson, the club’s Managing Director, said at the that:
We tidied up our logo for marketing purposes to make it a little bit sharper and slicker. The badge is on the shirt; it’ll be on the shirt next season. I think sometimes people try to make a story out of the flimsiest of pretexts. What we have to bear in mind is actually those traditional names have changed over the course of the years. Hull City AFC changed into being a number of years ago but there was a name before that. We’re very proud of our heritage. We’re very proud of the fact we represent the region. Whatever the situation is, we are Hull City and we are Tigers. The badge on the shirt is entirely different to the way we present ourselves in a marketing context.
The change of the name of a limited company which runs a football club is not that uncommon, and this would have been little more than a non-story had it ended there. After all the denials and all the comments which did little more than pat those amongst the club’s supporters who had been suspicious at what had been going on over the previous couple of months, though, two weeks ago this photograph appeared on Twitter, which indicated that there may be more going on here than merely the change of name of a limited company, and in addition to this the revised badge which gives the impression that the club’s name may now be “Hull City Tigers” was also added to the entrance to the club’s training ground.
At the time of writing, no-one knows whether this all goes as far as a revised badge here and a sign there. The arguments for and against this form of re-branding are a well worn path, as has been evinced by the ongoing debate at Cardiff City over the last year and a bit or so. The extent to which re-branding a smaller club to appeal to a foreign market is highly questionable – what evidence there is usually indicates that potential supporters are more likely to be influenced by how successful a club is than what colours they wear, what animals they may or may not be named after, or whatever – whilst it might even be suggested that football in this country has a certain proportion of the popularity of the English game abroad – though by far from all means all of it – comes from that storied history, that sense of continuity which stretches back to the very birth of this particular game as a professional sport.
Ultimately, though, as this superb editorial from the Hull City fanzine Amber Nectar suggests – and forum posts on the subject seem to back up – the supporters of the club who have spoken on the matter seem to be largely against it. Perhaps, though, a silent majority, giddy on the club’s return to the Premier League, will put up with it if a perception starts to grow that the club will benefit from it, even if it’s highly likely that any such benefits are, in reality, largely mirage-like. Perhaps more important than this, though, is the notion that a football club owner can come into a club and do whatever he likes because he owns it. It is his possession. The fact of the matter is, however, that it isn’t – or, rather, that it only is if the supporters of that club allow this situation to come to pass. For ultimately it is the supporters that are the “club.” It is they who are the shared history and experience, the voice, the colour and the sound of the organisation that they represent. And it will be down to them to decide how strongly they ant to fight it all, should that eventuality.
This is a critical point for the supporters of all football clubs to remember. If you were to hire, say, a cat-sitter to mind your moggy for a week, you wouldn’t praise them if they spray-painted it pink, shaved an advertisement for a pawn brokers into its back and changed its name to “Cat-Sitter Junior” after five days because said cat-sitter had looked after the cat pretty well for the previous four days and had spent a lot of money on the most expensive cat food that money could buy during that time. You’d report them to the RSPCA and they’d have a restraining order put against them from going within five hundred yards of any felines ever again. Just as people don’t tend to think, “You know what? The Mona Lisa would look really good if I added a tattoo to her neck; edgier, more twenty-first century, and I bet it would play better in the youth market,” so it should be with football clubs.
If Assed Allam wants to own a football club that isn’t called Hull City AFC, he is perfectly at liberty to form one, but he should leave the name of this one be. The owners of football clubs are in a privileged position. They are the custodians of institutions that have survived through decades, often through many hard times, and they only have to visit those clubs’ home grounds on match-days once for even the stupidest and most venal amongst them to surely realise how much these clubs and their identities mean to those that turn out and pay – often through the nose – to watch them every week. It doesn’t matter what nationality these owners are so long as they treat their acquisitions with the respect that they deserve, and there is still plenty of time for Allam to take a step back and stop what is now being considered by many Hull City supporter to be a re-branding that they emphatically don’t want. All he has to do is not do what many of the club’s supporters think that he is going to do next, and issue a statement confirming that the club’s name is safe on his watch. And if he doesn’t, it may be up to the supporters to Hull City to prove to him that he whilst he may well own the limited company, he will never own the club in the way in which he may believe that he does.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
“He purchased the club for a princely sum of 1 Pound” What are your talking about..? (you bloody amateur) – He cleared 40 + million worth of debt, with his own hard earned cash..! He had the option to delay his purchase by two weeks, by which time the club would have fallen into the hands of administrators, but ever being the local philanthropist, he refused to allow that to happen and thus saved the club from receiving a 10 point reduction and probable relegation to the third tier. Please take some friendly advice; if you want to be a credible journalist – then in future do your homework…!
I have supported city for 58 yrs as a passholder for over 50 of them..the change is of a minor nature so if it benefits the club financially I am all in favour and I think so is a silent majority..
According to local media, the club are issuing a formal statement on this subject this evening. For me, please keep the club name as it is, but please, please, revamp the club badge, especially the font which is sooooo 1950’s! Most likely created on the back of a fag packet, maybe Senior Service Plain!
Since as long as I can remember Hull City AFC has been known as “Hull City” or “the Tigers” – what on earth is wrong with making the badge “Hull City Tigers”? If it levers in more cash to spend on players, or maybe a new ground down the road – that surely is all to the good! In the meantime supporters will call their team what they want: the Tigers, ‘Ull or whatever. As an away supporter I would be more interested in Hull City AFC offering a shirt without having to advertise Cash Converters which I will not buy. So I stick with a plain amber and black 1971 version. In the meantime some supporters should stop trying to live in the past and embrace an exciting new future for the team, Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire.
If Eurosport is wrong, then I am as well.
But this isn’t really the main thrust of what this whole piece was about anyway.
I understand the outcry about Cardiff City’s rebrand; when it involves changing the colours and the symbol so drastically it’s a big deal because those colours and symbols are in many ways central to the identity of the club. However, I don’t really get what the fuss is all about when you’re talking about minor changes to a badge or a club name.
Clubs change their badges all the time, and when there are complaints from fans they can easily change them back; just look at Everton this summer. As to the alteration to the name, was there this kind of outcry when Manchester United Football Club altered their badge to become plain old Manchester United?
Adrian, Allam did indeed buy the club for £1 as part of the take-over transaction. Debt is treated differently when a company is taken over. In effect what the Allams did was to pay some money back to creditors (c.£10m) and then the rest he guaranteed, which, is in effect a promise to pay.
It is common practice accross football clubs to do this, Bates did the same when he took over both Chelsea and Leeds.
It’s not just “Hull City Tigers” that worries many fans in terms of re-branding, it’s the more dreadful “Hull Tigers” which is being frequently used by the owners and non-footballing management at the moment.
I’ve really enjoyed following this tournament through your witty and informative posts – thanks for all your hard work.
The cat sitting analogy doesn’t work. Allam is not being paid by the fans to look after Hull, he owns it. And I’m guessing that he owns it because no Hull fan came forward to buy the club…
Quite frankly though, I’m not interested in the legalities of him being able to do with his club as he likes, he should only change the name with the permission of supporters.
Hull City Tigers sounds awful.
I look forward to the Hull City Tigers slightly modifying the code of football they play in a season or two (for marketing purposes) when they can line up against the Warrington Wolves and Salford City Reds.
Can only think the new chap is hankering for that new UK NFL franchise that’s been mooted. Go Tigers!! lol
Given ‘Dr’ Allam’s penchant for having his name associated with entities he invests in, how long before it is Hull Allam Tigers?
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