Sunday’s match between Hull City and Liverpool at the KC Stadium resurfaced the ongoing back and forth between Hull’s fans and chairmen over proposed plans to rename the club as Hull Tigers. The club’s chairman Assem Allam last month confirmed his long-term intentions to change the club’s name, which has stirred a strong reaction from supporters, who have taken steps to protest and form groups in opposition to the plans.
The Egypt-born businessman feels that by changing the sides name to “Tigers” it will in turn make the club much more marketable on a global scale. However many passionate fans feel that Mr. Allam’s wishes to re-brand the club shows a sense of apathy on his part towards the traditions of the club and of English football as a whole.
The 74-year old has lived in Hull since 1968, and since that time has set up a multi-million pound company as well as taking over Hull City back in 2010. Over the past few years he has invested over £70 million into the club, essentially saving it from probable liquidation and instilling financial stability as he has overseen their promotion into the English Premiership.
Since the club chairman’s announcement supporters have exercized their right to protest in opposition to the plans, publicizing their ardent feelings over the matter in the hope to keep the “City” aspect of their name. Mr. Allam does, however, seem undeterred by fans’ voices, reacting strongly to chants and banners aired during Sunday’s game versus Liverpool.
Club manager Steve Bruce has come out and said that the chairman has a right to change the club’s name if he wants, reminding fans of Assem Allam’s support and investment into the club and community, as well as appealing to the club’s owner to listen and consider the supporters’ voices.
As has been pointed out by many fans in recent days, the debate has drawn attention away from what was an impressive and perhaps unexpected result for Hull City, who ran out as deserved 3-1 winners in a game eclipsed by fan protests.
The issue arouses an interesting broader debate over the current position of football in relation to sport and business. It seems that over the past couple of decades, with increased television payments rights and advertising revenue, football is shaping its future in a more business sense off of the field rather than as a working mans sport as traditionally seen.
The incremental rise in income clubs are experiencing has placed higher importance on clubs brand and identity in the global markets as they seek to sell themselves and garner big investors as well as fans from all over the world. Clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal have, in recent years, made an effort to break into the Asian market, going on annual end of season friendly tours in order to spread and improve their public relations. However, clubs like these have been able to easily and prosperously promote themselves through their consistent domestic and European success on the pitch, which has allowed them to recruit fans from all over the world, avoiding any significant changes to the clubs’ traditional running.
In order for smaller clubs to achieve any kind brand awareness on a more global scale, alternative promotional and marketing techniques have to be employed, being the primary reason for Assem Allem’s decision to change Hull City’s name.
It is a common marketing technique used in almost all national American sports with globally recognised NFL, NBA, and NHL teams marketed under names like Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bulls, and Detroit Red Wings. In classic American fashion these big-time, glittered up names make up part of a franchised, packaged brand that is marketed both nationally and globally. It is this aspect, this Americanization of an English club that many fans are having issue with. By resorting to such a practice supporters feel that it is taking out part of the clubs heart and soul.
The current situation seen at Hull City is a prime example of where football is moving, and how the sport, or at least those who run the sport, view their priorities. It would appear that the issue of financial security and future safety at the expense of established historical tradition is a reality that English football fans will potentially face to a greater extent in the coming years. In a global sport that is inheriting ever increasing investment year upon year, money is undoubtedly going to become even more prominent as time goes by, however, as society has shown over history, people can stand up and make a difference.
How will changing their name to “Hull Tigers” improve the clubs market potential? Has off the field business become more important than on the field entertainment?