Hull City show refreshing approach to treatment of supporters - Stuart Rayner

Hull City are a football club on the up.

As Tuesday’s defeat at Queens Park Rangers showed, the path is not smooth, but things are heading in the right direction and a big reason is that after years of disengagement, fans are back on board.

The club’s new regime is doing its best to not just look after those who go to games, but to entice back those who do not.

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“We will make mistakes but our intentions are good. If you can’t forgive us for that, you either don’t believe us or don’t want this club to be successful,” vice-chairman Tan Kesler told The Yorkshire Post.

Hull City supporters have enjoyed the start to the season. (Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)Hull City supporters have enjoyed the start to the season. (Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)
Hull City supporters have enjoyed the start to the season. (Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

Chucking expensive signings at them helps but what Hull supporters appreciate most is that owner Acun Ilicali appears genuine about trying to bring them along.

Under-10s memberships are free this season, as were the coaches taking supporters to Loftus Road on Tuesday, subsidised by their charismatic Turkish owner.

The virtuous circle is spinning. Hull got their biggest crowd of the season against Birmingham City at the weekend, and duly extended their 100 per cent home record. The contrasting away form – one draw and three defeats – shows its importance.

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More bums on seats create a more vibrant atmosphere, which makes players more eager to join, which should make for better results, which attracts more fans (and sponsors) who might bring their mates and more revenue in the long run, and so it goes on.

It makes good business sense.

There is a real danger the next generation is being priced out of football stadia and onto sofas – provided they can afford the many television subscriptions it takes to follow a team from there.

Listening to Kesler last week was uplifting amidst the cynicism of modern football.

Then along came the Premier League to show utter contempt for fans.

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It was Monday evening before Chelsea and West Ham United supporters discovered when this weekend’s Premier League match was going to be played.

The fixtures were drawn up in June.

The match was chosen for Sky Sports coverage on Sunday, but it was decided that was unacceptable with Chelsea at Dinamo Zagreb in Tuesday’s Champions League. Who could have seen that coming?

Sky for starters. They knew there was a 50-50 chance Chelsea would play on Tuesday so why not just pick another game – as they were eventually forced to – before alienating two fanbases?

It just confirmed the hollowness of everything the Premier League said during lockdown about football being “nothing without the fans”.

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Rude songs about Sky are a regular soundtrack to TV games. Leeds United supporters suffered more than most when they were the Championship’s big fish but too many fanbases have horror stories. We were told years ago FA Cup replays were impossible the following midweek because police needed 10 days’ notice. Why should fans who have already bought expensive tickets be expected to make arrangements at less than a week’s notice for no good reason?

Hull are not alone in having a deep reservoir of supporters who want to get behind their club if you just give them a reason. You would not give your custom to most businesses that treat you like something scraped off their shoe, yet football expects it.

The cost of living is forcing difficult choices and for some, football will have to go.

Clubs – especially those who do not sell out every week and the Premier League sides for whom gate money is a small part of their income – should make it easier, not harder, to support them. Hull get that again, but too many do not.

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