The campaign by Hull City fans to stave off a rebrand by billionaire owner, Assem Allam, bore fruit yesterday, after the Football Association (FA) moved to reject the Egyptian’s proposal to change the club’s name.
Allam, who has made a fortune in industrial manufacturing, joined Hull City as chairman in 2010, and oversaw the side’s return to the Premier League in 2013, a development that surprised some fans who gamble with Betfair. The Egyptian has since invested £74m in City, according to his son, Ehab, and now has “nothing left to give” to the Humberside club.
However, despite Ehab’s claims of financial difficulty, it is obvious that Allam’s inability to turn Hull into an internationally significant franchise (with all the additional sales of stuffed Tigers that would bring) is the reasoning behind his recent threat to sell the club; he is, to put it another way, throwing his toys out of the pram.
The Premier League’s billionaire owners frequently use their feckless spending as a justification to do what they like, whether that’s hiring and firing staff depending on the phases of the Moon (Chelsea, QPR), sticking with self-appointed managers, even when faced with relegation (Blackburn) or, rather more infamously, changing a club’s badge and team colours (Cardiff).
Describing Hull’s moniker as “common” and “lousy”, referring to the number of clubs in the Premier League with the word ‘City’ in their name, Assam simultaneously ignored 110 years of the club’s history, protests from fans in the Betfair forums, and the brilliant warning sign that the Bluebirds’ now infamous rebrand presented to his team, in charging ahead with his ‘Hull Tigers’ franchise plan.
Allam, while proving a financial boon to City, bankrolling the purchase of former Everton man, Nikica Jelavic, among others, has nevertheless displayed the same appreciation of English football, it’s history and rigid traditionalism, as Vincent Tan and Venkys London; that is, hardly any at all.
In the wake of the FA’s recommendation to rebuff the name change, his insistence that he must now “walk away” from the side is both a display of petulance and a reminder of how incompatible industrial manufacturers and poultry magnates are with football, as both a business and an institution.
According to the Betfair football site, Allam will now survey nearly 18,000 season ticket holders in an effort to push ahead with his proposal. However, given the outpouring of support for Hull fans’ City ‘til I Die Campaign, which stands in support of the side’s AFC moniker, and boasts a contingent of Cardiff City fans, the 74 year old’s promise to sell the club may soon be put to the test.