Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

FA set to block Hull rebrand

Assem Allam, centre, wants to change his club's name to Hull Tigers
Assem Allam, centre, wants to change his club's name to Hull Tigers

The Football Association is due to rule on Hull City's controversial bid to rename themselves Hull Tigers on Wednesday.

The FA Council is expected to block the rebranding proposals of club owner Assem Allam after the governing body's own membership committee unanimously recommended they be rejected last month.

That would be in spite of a poll conducted by the club which appears to offer some evidence of support among fans for the change.

In a ballot of season-ticket holders over the age of 16, 2,565 voted for the rebrand with 2,517 against. A further 792 expressed indifference while another 9,159 did not take up their right to vote.

These results, which were published on Monday, came too late to be included in any written submission the club may have made ahead of the council meeting.

They could, however, provide encouragement for the club to appeal should the verdict, as seems likely, go against them.

Allam believes the Tigers name is more marketable worldwide and could help the club attract the greater investment he feels is necessary to compete at the top level and grow.

He has expressed his dislike for the "common" City name and has threatened to pull out of the club if his wish is not granted.

But, regardless of what the poll has indicated, his plans have met with fierce resistance from supporters.

Hull, whose colours are amber and black, have long been nicknamed the Tigers, but fans are fiercely loyal to City, which has been in the club's title since formation in 1904.

Opponents have been clear in pointing out that their protests are against the name change and are not anti-Allam.

Egyptian-born businessman Allam, who has long been based in the Hull area, has generally been a popular owner after rescuing the club from financial crisis in 2010.

Fans continue to urge him to reconsider, but in an open letter last month Allam's son Ehab, the club's vice-chairman, stated the family had put in £74million and had "nothing left to give".

He said the proposal was a means of making the club "stand out" from others.

Opposition group 'City Till We Die' believes the Allams may have exploited some personal loyalty towards them by wording questions in their favour in the poll.

Fans were invited to vote "Yes to Hull Tigers with the Allam family continuing to lead the club", simply "No to Hull Tigers" or "I am not too concerned and will continue to support the club either way".

A statement from the group read: "We are pleased that supporters treated the ballot as a validation of Dr Allam's ownership of the football club, rather than believing the masquerade that this was a vote on the name change."

They added the result was "largely meaningless".

The group have received backing from the Football Supporters' Federation.

An FSF statement read: "Many Hull City fans have already contacted us to express their concerns in relation to the flawed ballot.

"It wasn't neutrally worded and was a clear attempt to create a 'yes' vote. Even then, only one in six season-ticket holders has voted yes.

"Fans are also concerned that they were required to identify themselves when voting, hardly surprising since the chairman has been openly hostile to those who disagree with him.

"The club might be allocating FA Cup final tickets soon and some fans who voted 'no' fear they'll have a black mark against their name during the application process.

"It might even have discouraged some from voting 'no' in the first place.

"Hull City's ballot does not stand up to scrutiny and we have already written to the FA arguing exactly that."

The club themselves have not commented on the matter ahead of the council meeting. Hull do not want the matter to detract from this weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United.

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