It was noted on this site at least a couple of years ago that democracy in terms of football had the potential to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, genuine efforts to engage supporters to be active rather than passive in terms of involvement with their clubs arrive at their natural conclusion in the existence of supporters trusts, both at clubs where the trusts are running the show and at those at which they play the vital – but not always popular role – of being a “critical friend.” Democracy, however, can be twisted and spun into something of a façade, offering a veneer of respectability to to something that might otherwise be considered without credibility. The biggest danger of the idea of democratising football was always likely to be its bastardisation.
All of this brings us back to the subject of the proposed name change of Hull City to Hull Tigers. As many of you will already be aware, it was confirmed earlier this season that the Football Association would be making a final decision over this rebrand – which, depending on your perspective, has either angered a large number of the club’s supporters or fundamentally split the fan-base – in April, and it was recently confirmed that the FA’s Membership Committee had unanimously recommended to its Council that the application on the part of the club that this suggestion be recommended. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the club’s reaction to this statement was as pugnacious as all of its dealings with anybody on the matter since the announcement was made last year after a period during which the club seemed to be attempting to introduce it by stealth.
That the club should have announced that it would be holding a poll of season ticket holders is no great surprise. This story is all about spin, spin, spin – even though the loose-mouthed Dr Allam’s previous comments on the subject, including the particularly despicable observation that those against ths rebranding ‘can die as soon as they want,’ have hinted at an individual with little grasp of or interest in much other than saying and doing whatever the hell he likes – so here comes a poll, written by the club, as part of what we can reasonably describe Hull City’s last-ditch attempt to win a PR battle on the matter. The poll offers three options for supporters, as follows:
* Yes to Hull Tigers with the Allam family continuing to lead the club
* No to Hull Tigers
* I am not too concerned and will continue to support the club either way
As with any referendum, the most sensible thing to do at first is to to analyse the options being given to voters and it would seem that the club is continuing its blackmail theme of the last few weeks in wording its first option “Yes to Hull Tigers with the Allam family continuing to lead the club,” the implication, of course, being that unless Dr Allam gets his tiger-shaped lollipop, he’ll throw his toys out of the pram and stomp out of the KC nursery, never to be seen again. Of course, Hull City will be making at least £60m in television money this season in the Premier League and the same again next season should the club not be relegated in a couple of months time. It’s realities such as this that give something of a hollow ring to such claims, which have been made frequently, both implicitly and explicitly, over the last few months. Will they really walk away should they not get they want? We shall see.
The Allams clearly want this to be a referendum on their stewardship of the club rather than the name change, and it’s likely that that they want this because, other than over this particular debacle, their period in charge of the club has been successful, with promotion to the Premier League having been followed up by a first FA Cup semi-final appearance in over eighty years. However, it is worth reminding ourselves of the fact that the FA Council will not be voting in a couple of weeks time on the Allam family’s stewardship of the club since they took control of it. They will be voting on the Allam family’s wish to change the name of the club, and this is not the same thing, even though the Allams seems to be going out of their way to conflate the two matters.
Then comes the small matter of who would be counting such a ballot. The club can hardly be an impartial party on this matter, so why is the club counting the votes? This isn’t how the counting of a referendum with any credibility would normally be carried out. And then there is the small matter of why this vote isn’t anonymous. It would hardly be surprising if, given Assem Allam’s previous outbursts on this subject, Hull supporters felt cowed into voting Yes regardless of what they might feel on the matter. After all, if those that run the club have taken the opposition to this rebranding as personally as they occasionally seem to have done, what would be to stop those with season tickets from having a more difficult time getting big match or in demand away tickets in the future? None of this is to say that the club is to act in such an infantile way, of course. We would expect better of any football club. But in the current poisonous atmosphere – which is entirely of the making of those running the club – such suspicions are probably inevitable.
All of this brings us, of course, to the small question of why, when the date for further submissions has passed, the club should be bothering with such a poll, no matter how skewed and muddied it may be, when it will not form a part of anything official to the submission. Well, one possibility is that, even though it’s not officially part of the submission, if the vote does go in their club’s favour we can doubtlessly expect a torrent of spin on the matter. “Look at us”, they will likely say, “We held a ballot and it came out in our favour! That’s democracy!” And members of the FA Council are people, just like the rest of us. It may not form a part of the submission, but it seems inconceivable that the result of any poll won’t be something that they are aware of at the time that the vote is taken. This, we might humbly suggest, could be considered to resemble gerrymandering as much it represents democracy. We’ll find out more when the results are in, even if they are nothing to do with the FA’s vote on the subject in a couple of weeks time.
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