The Kingston Communications Stadium (or KC – not the previously-praised Sunshine Band, or KFC, just KC) is the smartest ground I’ve been so far on this journey. Everything seems to be accessible, well-planned and the stadium itself looks massive, even though it holds just over 25,000. You even have to walk through a park to get to one half of the stadium, which must be marvellous to do on a warm day. Beyond all of that, the club’s nickname (due to their amber-and-black colours) is ‘Tigers’ – and there is Tigers branding absolutely everywhere. The club shop sells tiger-branded polo shirts for £45 a pop, or the girls can rock a Tigers Babe tote bag, that will remove £35 from your purse – and there are even signs on the concourse toilets saying Tiger and Tigress (they missed a trick not calling the baby changing facilities ‘cub’ though). The rank commercialism doesn’t just stop there though – the club have recently been criticised by supporter groups for their ticket prices as recent visits by Liverpool and Arsenal have cost all supporters a whopping £50 – in comparison to today’s game which was £16! With the match today being against Burnley, I think this will be a more entertaining game for the general public, what with the current predicament of both teams and the chances of actually winning the match will be realistically higher than one against a top club. I’ve used this as an argument whenever someone tries to justify ridiculous ticket prices for the football – my FA Cup Final ticket cost me £45. There is simply no excuse for any club, especially clubs that receive hundreds of millions from television deals, to charge the normal person in the street so much for a regular game of football. How much of this exploitation (which is what it is) is about Hull City raising money to finance themselves or is it purely about fleecing supporters and keeping the money, because they’re in the Premier League and playing against a big side?
Thanks to the nickname, the owner of the club, Assem Allam, wants to change the name of the club to ‘Hull Tigers’, in order to increase the brand of the club overseas (more specifically, Asia). Allam already applied to change the name last summer, but the Football Association rejected the notion, but the club are applying again this summer after appealing to the Court of Arbitration For Sport. My understanding is that Allam wanted to buy the stadium outright, in order to expand and redevelop the area further, but the Council (who own it) have refused, so he is seeking alternative revenue streams to try and push the club on. The question I have here is; would changing the name to Hull Tigers really raise them up to be challenging for a Premier League title? A Champions League place? A top 8 finish? I’m not sure it would – having a long-term strategy in regards to improving the infrastructure of the club, using money garnered from the television deal, season tickets and sponsors to invest in training and youth facilities and running them well, is the way to do it. The club have already spent £10m on misfiring striker Abel Hernandez this season, so is gathering more money to spend on foreign players who tend to struggle early on, really the answer to pushing the club up the league?
This proposed move hasn’t gone down well with the vast majority of football supporters in the country, so you can imagine how some Hull supporters feel! Apart from the proposed name sounding like a faceless American Football franchise, it just doesn’t sound right for a locally-supported football club to be whoring itself out by changing its identity to sound edgy. Supporters have voiced their dissatisfaction, “City Till We Die” they sing. Allam, let’s not forget here – a very successful businessman, publicly responded with “They can die as soon as they want” and even branded the name Hull City Association Football Club as ‘irrelevant’ – not really intelligent comments from a successful, local businessman, are they? Let’s get this right though – Allam has been very successful with Hull. He’s led them from possible liquidation to the Premier League in just a couple of years, not to mention a FA Cup Final last year – he deserves huge credit for the way he has progressed the club. For some Hull supporters though, this issue has undone most of the work he’s undertaken, especially considering his comments about the supporters. Back to that question again – would calling the club Tigers make it a more popular, a more marketable name in an area of the world that is already obsessed with the top teams in the Premier League and La Liga? As some Allam-supporters have said ‘Hull City’ is just a name, it doesn’t matter if it gets changed. Following that same stream of thought then – ‘Hull Tigers’ is just a name, so why change it anyway if it’s ‘just a name’ and it ‘doesn’t matter’? It isn’t just a name though, City that is, it’s over 110 years of history and tradition that will be ended just to bring in those overseas £££’s that probably won’t make much difference to the club’s standing in the Premier League anyway.
People will say that he ‘owns the club and he should be able to do what he wants’ – but despite that, it still isn’t his club – it’s for the people of Kingston-Upon-Hull. The Allam family are ultimately just one in a long line of custodians who will run the club, but the supporters will always be there, paying their money to keep the club going – there would simply be no football club without the supporters. Yes, Allam arguably saved the club from going bust, but let’s just say it did go under – the supporters would have got together and formed a new club. So what was the point of Allam saving the club in that case then? It was to preserve its league position and history. That’s the point. If you bought a listed building, you wouldn’t be able to knock it down or change how it looks – but that’s what he’ll be doing to the club if he just dumps their name and dismisses it and their history as ‘irrelevant’.
The issue becomes all the more baffling when you consider that Allam, who has lived in Hull for over 40 years and has been a great philanthropist towards the city, doesn’t understand the historical elements of the football club, the feelings of supporters and its position in the local community. If he manages to convince the Football Association that the name change is a good idea, he’s in danger of alienating the local people from their own club, the very group whose ancestors set up the club a hundred and odd years ago, just so he can change a name just to bring in extra money from abroad to be able to finish mid-table in the Premier League. Tigers is already the club’s nickname, it’s bloody plastered everywhere in and around the council-owned stadium, so why not just use that in his Asian markets, instead of upsetting the very people who have kept the club alive for all of these years? I’ll leave this issue, with this comment I saw on a Hull newspaper’s website – football clubs were built (and maintained) on the working man’s shilling. And just because we live in an ‘I’m alright Jack’ society nowadays – that history should never be wiped out and forgotten.
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