Although the comments made by Hull City owner Assem Allam may have been a massive PR own goal, the outrage and protests will amount to nothing. Allam wants to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers, presumably to “leverage the brand” and make full use of Hull’s nickname as a marketing tool. It’s what big business is all about these days – image, brand and marketing.
But the locals are not happy. They are “Hull City till they die” and they are making their displeasure known.
Allam doesn’t like what he is seeing, so much so that fans brandishing banners at the club’s recent home game were called “hooligans” and attempts were made to stop them protesting. What’s more, Allam reacted to the “City till I die” chants by saying the fans could “die as soon as they want”.
But what’s in a name? Why are the fans so upset? And do they not think that Allam has the right to change the club’s name? The answer to the last question is certainly yes, he does have the right, and he will do it. Men with wealth and acumen also have determination written right through them.
Allam has invested £ 60m in a club that would almost certainly be out of business if it were not for the Egyptian-born businessman. He has taken Hull into the Premier for a second spell in the top flight. It might not last long, but it’s a long way from extinction. Allam has said that if they don’t want him at the club, he will sell it tomorrow. From a business perspective, can you really blame him?
There used to be a saying that if you want to throw money away, invest in a football club. For many, many years, football clubs – and their fans – have relied on the goodwill of people pumping money into them, purely for the pleasure of others.
With the sums of money so great, and the stakes so high, can anyone really expect rich businessmen to bail-out clubs and not expect anything back in return? Those days have gone. And after all, Allam only wants to exchange “City AFC” for “Tigers”. It certainly rolls off the tongue better.
The fans consider that they “own” the club on a spiritual basis. Materially, they pay their admission, buy the shirts and other goods, but they do not buy the club. That invariably relies on people like Mr Allam. And if he wants to rename the club, he has every right to do do, as unpalatable as it seems to Hull’s fans.
We’ve already seen one example of a rebranding exercise in the form of the radical recolouring of Cardiff and the adoption of a dragon for a bluebird. Cardiff are also in the Premier, so the owners of the Welsh club will consider it has been a success.
Mr Allam may have upset the Hull fans with his Orwellian reactions, but he’s smart enough to know that a reconciliation is in his best interests. And the Hull fans will not really want Allam to walk away – it will spell disaster. Cardiff fans may be thinking “better red than dead”, Hull’s regulars will soon realise they may need to look into the eye of the tiger – and wink. Think Life of Pi – a tiger and the boy living side-by-side. Unthinkable perhaps, but they did it for mutual survival!
Footnote: It’s amazing that football fans never use the best weapon they have – non-attendance – to show they are unhappy. That’s because football is opium for the masses – they can’t stay away!