Allam in no mood to give up the fight for Tigers

Hull City owner Assem Allam.
Hull City owner Assem Allam.
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ASSEM ALLAM, as a past donor to the Labour party and someone who a couple of years ago welcomed Ed Milliband to a Hull City home game, may not look too kindly on the comparison.

But there was an air of Margaret Thatcher’s most famous speech yesterday as the 75-year-old dramatically revealed that the Premier League club had been up for sale since April and that an appeal against his controversial plan to re-brand as Hull Tigers was under way.

‘The gentleman is not for turning,’ was the undisputed message to emerge from a press conference that lasted a little under 47 minutes and re-opened a debate that, for much of last season, raged wildly across the East Riding.

Allam’s intention to re-brand, he made crystal clear, remains as strong as ever. And nothing is going to divert the Egyptian-born businessman – who has overseen Hull’s meteoric rise – from that course.

Such a steadfast stance may not bring the standing ovation from Hull supporters that Thatcher received from the 1980 Tory party conference after pledging that there would be no U-turn over the economic reforms she felt were necessary.

In fact, judging by some of the reaction on social media and internet messageboards, chances are that Monday night’s home game with West Ham United will see the protests against the proposed change being cranked up in front of the live Sky cameras.

But yesterday was still a fascinating piece of theatre as Allam moved to clear up recent speculation that had suggested the Tigers were either on the brink of being sold or that he was stepping down to be replaced as chairman by his son, Ehab.

After revealing with his opening gambit to the media that the club had been on the market since April 10, the Hull chairman turned to the appeal and how he was “reasonably confident” that the FA’s original decision could be overturned.

However, with no timescale yet in place for the case to be heard by the Swiss-based independent body whose decision will be final and binding, the 75-year-old admitted the Tigers could be sold before he learns if his attempts to change the club’s name have been successful.

And even if Allam is still in charge when a verdict is reached, he made it clear he won’t be sticking around if that decision merely reaffirms the FA’s stance. Instead, the Hull chairman will “give it away” to deliver on an earlier promise to walk out if the plan does not get the go-ahead.

All in all, therefore, a pretty extraordinary turn of events for a club who, on the field at least, are enjoying the most successful period in their history. A fact that was not lost on Allam, who revealed the ambitions he still holds for the club – providing they are allowed to change the name to Hull Tigers.

“Nobody works for ever but I wanted to be here until I achieved my ambition of being in the top four,” said Allam, who is believed to have ploughed around £70m in since rescuing Hull from the threat of administration in 2010.

“You will say that it’s a bit wide (of the mark), an exaggeration. But if I had told you three years ago there would be Premier League and an FA Cup final, you would have thought it was a joke. Now I am saying I want to be top four, in a couple of years’ time. You will find it is not a joke. It is a possibility, if I am still here.”

Allam, who maintains what he considers to be a “silent majority” of fans back his planned re-brand, aired several grievances during yesterday’s media briefing with the protest group City Till We Die coming in for criticism along with Hull City Council.

The Tigers chairman had wanted to buy the KC Stadium freehold but received no encouragement from the local authority a couple of years ago and cut off contact.

On his failed bid to buy the KC, Allam said: “The idea was to acquire the freehold in order to spend the money to prepare the infrastructure for the club to be able to generate commercial income. I didn’t want the club to rely on me being alive or dead.

“I allocated £33m, to spend on a hotel and to commercialise all parts of the stadium. Like at Reading, who have a Waitrose in the stadium. And Derby, who have every takeaway around.

“Here, in the stadium, you could kill someone after a home match and you would never know until two weeks later. How can you expect the club to survive (without non-matchday income)?”

Amid the sideswipes at perceived opponents, Allam made it clear yesterday was all about the planned re-branding.

“Someone could come and say they would change the name to Red Bull Football Club or Coca-Cola Football Club and so on,” said the Tigers’ chairman, who claimed the FA’s decision cost Hull a sponsor who would have paid £1m more per season than 12Bet to have their names on the club’s shirts.

“Or a rude name, Red Bottom Football Club. They (the FA) would have a right to protect football from that. But this is none of these. And if most of the fans want to sit and worship the name, I am sorry to have bought the club. When I put £20m-odd at risk, my intention was to save the football club for the community and promote the quality of football. I never ever had in mind that I paid millions to save ‘AFC’ or ‘City’. I would not have bought the club.”