Name swap veto could bite Tigers’ fans with price rise

Hull City fans protesting against the change of name by the club's owners before the match against Norwich City
Hull City fans protesting against the change of name by the club's owners before the match against Norwich City
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A DATE has been set for the Football Association to rule on the proposed name change of Hull City amid suggestions that the club will have to raise the price of season tickets substantially if the rebrand does not get the green light.

Chairman Assem Allam wants to re-name the Premier League club as Hull Tigers in an attempt to tap into the lucrative Far East market.

The suggestion, however, has met with fierce opposition from a section of the KC Stadium faithful who are pinning their hopes on the FA blocking the plan at the next meeting of their Full Council on April 9.

Last month, Allam told his critics that should the re-brand be vetoed he would walk away “within 24 hours”.

Now, though, the noises coming out of the club suggest that the FA blocking the change to Hull Tigers could result in season ticket prices being raised by up to 50 per cent.

The adopting of the Tigers moniker is understood to be crucial to at least two major sponsorship deals that have been lined up for next season.

The interested companies are believed to have either the word Tiger or Tigers in their name.

Should those potential deals flounder because the club has to stick with City, the knock-on effect would be the club having to find alternative funding.

One suggestion is a rise in season ticket prices. At the moment, Hull’s most expensive adult ticket is £490 in the West Stand. That is around £45 below the average for the Premier League.

Despite the £60m riches from television which come with being in the Premier League, Hull are still being bankrolled by the Allam family.

Just last month, manager Steve Bruce praised Assem Allam for finding the £14m funding to bring strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long to the club.

The spending spree came at the end of a week in which the Tigers’ chairman had threatened to quit the club if the FA rejected his re-brand.

As part of those investigations into the matter, the governing body have spoken to both club officials and supporters who are against the plan.

Among those asked to make written submissions by the FA have been City Till We Die, a campaign group set up following the announcement of Allam’s plan last summer, and Hull’s official supporters’ club.

In January, the supporters’ club held a ballot that saw 932 members vote with 377 (40.5 per cent) in favour of changing the name to Hull Tigers and 555 (59.5 per cent) against.

Asked for a response to the suggestion season ticket prices could rise, a spokesman for City Till We Die said last night: “The decision on the name change proposal is now in the hands of the FA.

“We assume that the club will have made details clear to the FA of any thus far undisclosed link between potential sponsorship deals and a change of playing name in their submission.

“CTWD has faith in the FA’s ongoing consultation and has undertaken not to comment on the investigation. We respect the FA process and await their decision.”

Among those in the game to have voiced opposition to the move is Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.

Speaking before Christmas, Scudamore said: “I would personally prefer they didn’t, but that is a decision for the FA.

“Full respect to Mr Allam, he has put his money in and saved Hull. He has got a lot to be credited for.

“But, personally, I think it is difficult to change names.”

Those who have come out publicly in favour include Hull-born actor Tom Courtenay and former deputy Prime Minister and East Hull MP, John Prescott.

When asked last month by the Yorkshire Post about the matter, FA chief executive Greg Dyke promised both sides would get a fair hearing. He also hinted that manager Bruce could be consulted over his views.

The latest development in the long-running name change saga has done Bruce few favours with two crucial games coming up in the space of three days.

Tomorrow, the Tigers head to Cardiff City and then, on Monday, they will host Brighton & Hove Albion in an FA Cup fifth-round replay.

Bruce needs the focus to be on the pitch and the Hull manager will, no doubt, have been heartened to hear last night that City Till We Die have asked supporters at the two games to support the team and not take part in any protests against the name change while play is going on.

Both games could help define Hull’s season – as midfielder David Meyler admits.

He said: “We know with the players we have got, we have got a strong enough squad. The Premier League is our bread and butter and we have to win on Saturday.

“That is what we will be looking to do. Cardiff will want to beat us as well and I am sure they will be well up for it. But I believe we should have too much for Cardiff.

“The lads up front (Long and Jelavic) have started scoring goals and if they can continue that I think we will get the three points.

“Our recent win at Sunderland was something of a blueprint. It did help that they went down to 10 men, but we did dominate the whole game and created a lot of chances.”