Hull City takeover: Assem Allam’s disrespect of fans outweighs the good parts of his Hull City reign - Stuart Rayner

Under more than a decade of Assem Allam’s chairmanship, Hull City have won promotion to the top flight twice (and Championship once), taken Arsenal – the modern-day kings of the competition – to extra-time in an FA Cup final and played Europa League football. All were firsts for the East Yorkshire club.

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If football fans were as simplistic as they are sometimes painted, Allam would be a hugely popular owner – at least he would have been until the reality of his relationship with supporters saw the club and his emotional commitment to it unravel.

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The hope – for everyone’s sake – is that Allam’s ownership ends before its 11th anniversary in December, with Turkish media tycoon Acun Ilicali open about his wish to finally take the millstone from around his neck. Hull fans will be wary of getting too excited having had their hopes dashed many times but a similarly unpopular and out-of-touch owner has just been drummed out of Newcastle United.

Hull City chairman Dr Assem Allam acknowledges the fans at the promotion party celebrating the teams rise into the Premier League in 2013 (Picture: Tony Johnson)

If Ilicali succeeds, he would be very well advised to learn the lessons of Allam’s time, when those highs were undermined by basic, common errors. Any would-be football club owner would.

Winning trophies and promotions, and throwing money at transfers, can paper over cracks and bury questions about what owners do in their other businesses, but only takes you so far.

What supporters most need is a little respect.

The club Allam has been struggling for so long to sell has become increasingly toxic.

Hull City owner Assem Allam (left) during the FA Cup fourth round match at the KCOM Stadium, Hull, back in January 2020 (Picture: PA)

Attendances have been on the decline since Hull were last relegated from the Premier League in 2017, but even then they were not filling their once-neat 25,000-capacity ground. This season’s average gate was nudged over 11,000 by big away followings in their last two matches, against Sheffield United and Middlesbrough.

The vast swathes of empty seats add to a feeling of neglect which undermines everything Hull’s well-meaning and hard-working employees are trying to achieve. It is not so much anger and hatred which is the undoing of clubs, but apathy.

Hull had an unusually good home record last season when the stands were shut by Covid-19 but now they have reopened, playing in front of disenchanted fans or echoey terraces is again difficult.

Clubs have a far better chance of success when they bring their supporters with them.

Hull City fans protest against chairman Assem Allam at a game in 2018 (Picture: Tony Johnson)

It is far too early to judge Newcastle’s new owners but at least they have been switched on enough to make a point of communicating with fans in a way Mike Ashley and even his minions very rarely did. Copying an Ashley mistake, Allam has banned the local newspaper from home matches and press conferences for criticising him.

The most unpopular chairmen tend to be those who seem to regard fans as annoying customers, obstacles to what they are trying to achieve, rather than partners, and petty moves like that reinforce the impression. Local newspapers generally try to be a “critical friend” of their clubs, so take away the friendship and it can get messy.

The Allam quote which will go down in notoriety came in December 2013: “I don’t mind (fans chanting) ‘City till we die’,” he said (how gracious). “They can die as soon as they want, as long as they leave the club for the majority who just want to watch good football.”

The argument sprang from another of Allam’s great failings – he did not get football, and therefore, did not get Hull City.

Hull City players celebrate promotion to the Championship, one of four promotions under Assem Allam (Picture: PA)

To others who do not, the focus the Government-led review into football is putting on preserving the heritage of clubs might seem a bit baffling. No one bats an eyelid when a multinational company changes its logo, the colour of its branding or moves a shop, but football is about identity and history, heritage and symbolism shape it.

It is why Hull fans – and the Football Association, twice – could not countenance the club changing its name to Hull Tigers because Allam thought City was a “lousy” sobriquet.

Even before that callous outburst, his actions showed a lack of respect. Removing concessionary ticket prices suggested someone who only cared about money.

Interfering in the running of the team is disrespectful too, and mutterings about why Ilicali’s involvement with Fortuna Sittard of Holland was so brief do not bode brilliantly.

Allam has genuine feeling for his adopted East Yorkshire home – and the millions of pounds he poured into its hospitals have made it a better place – but openly admitted he had no interest in football.

Owning a football club is only a good way to become a millionaire if you start off as a billionaire. Just as it is for those fans who travel the country watching them, it is a labour of love. Without the love, it just becomes laborious.

A local owner who used to stand on the terraces with the wherewithal to allow their beloved club to dream might be exceptionally hard to find, and at times as supporters and media we sometimes have to be more understanding of the difficulties owners face, now more than ever.

But no matter the intentions, without basic respect for the club and its fans, ownership can never be more than a burden for long.