Egyptian born British businessman Assem Allam announced in a press conference earlier today that he was ready to sell Hull City. Having categorically stated in April this year that he would leave within 24 hours unless the club was registered under the name ‘Hull Tigers’, signed Yao Ming and partook in the annual NBA draft, this should not come as a surprise to most.
Aside from the obvious short sightedness in actually believing he could just up and leave in the time it usually takes Arsene Wenger to consider signing a player, his belief that it is justifiable to introduce a radical name change to a club with a history spanning more than a century simply to improve it’s marketability was understandably met with a prompt shake of the head by the FA Council. Surprisingly, the KC stadium faithful stood on his side throughout this ordeal, in an act of defiance which surely had nothing to do with the depth of their patron’s pockets.
And deep they are. A net £12.4 million outlay has resulted from the acquisition of the forever polarised Hatem Ben Arfa and your now premier league standard foreign striker signing in Abel Hernandez, among many, to bolster the squad in their hopes of repeating their FA Cup final reaching heroics last season. This of course begs the question; is Allam just another man with a throw-money-at-it mentality to seek for wins and generate revenue from his investment, or is her perhaps more?
Having studied, grown up and eventually given back to Kingston upon Hull in the UK for almost half a century, Allam certainly does not deserve to be put up on the shelf next to oil tycoons and sheikhs without a moment of thought. The very fact that his purchase of Hull City came with what he said was a need to “pay back the area” must surely mean there are deeper, more sentimental reasons than money and revenue behind his magnificent gap-toothed grin. Yet as the saying goes, no man is bigger than the club, especially when that man’s aspirations are an extreme change, and are relayed in a fashion befitting more of a dictator.
An era ago, clubs like Singers FC and St. Domingo’s had their names changed, but this was in a time where money remained secondary, even tertiary, to the sport – and the reasons never smelt like freshly minted Euros. The former became ‘Coventry City FC’ in a bid to represent it’s geographic location, and the latter ‘Everton FC’ so that people of all faiths could comfortably fit in. Changing ‘Hull City’ to ‘Hull Tigers’ in comparison seems redundant, but we must also set aside the obvious reasons for our chuckles to consider that within the context of modern businesses and the rise of football clubs as money makers, it makes sense. It all depends on whose perspective is taken: for the fans, football was always primary. For the benefactors of the clubs we support however, the landscape is drastically different. It is indeed a bitter pill to swallow.
With Glen Whelan on one end and Vincent Tan on the other, Allam had begun to walk between the two ends of the spectrum with a strut that was starting to cause worries. His roots and upbringing suggest he really does want what is best for the club, even financially, but his sale, even if it is to his son and accompanied by assurances that he will still commit to the club, seems to be the best way forward for Hull City.
Perhaps changing his own name to Assem Hullam would be the best step forward personally. For marketing purposes, of course.