Sanity 1-0 Hull Tigers

Matthew Lewis

The FA Council today announced that Hull City will not be permitted to change their name to Hull Tigers, ending a season-long debate about just what exactly their owner Assem Allam was hoping to achieve.

For once, common sense has prevailed. The FA Council reached a final conclusion on Hull City owner Assem Allam's mooted plan to change the name of his club on Wednesday, replacing "Hull City Association Football Club" with "Hull Tigers." And their answer was, in summary: no, no you can't, stop being a pillock.

This isn't quite the end of one of the stranger stories of this Premier League season — Allam is expected to attempt an appeal — but it does at least suggest that the FA have started to recognise that it might, at times, be wise to curb the more peculiar whims of the owners of football clubs. After all, the plans engendered a mixture of amusement, consternation and contempt across much of the wider football community, not to mention vocal opposition from a number of Hull fans, including the protest group City Till We Die.

City Till We Die's case against is that changing the name of the club would "break with 109 years of history and tradition. Hull City AFC is the thread that connects Boothferry Park, the KC Stadium and Wembley"; that is, their old stadium, their current, and the national stadium of England where Hull play an FA Cup semi-final next week. "That links Raich Carter, Chris Chilton and Ken Wagstaff" — a few of the older legends of the club — "to Ian Ashbee, Dean Windass" — more recent heroes — "and the team of today. It represents our community."

It was generally assumed by most of the rest of the country that City Till We Die spoke on behalf of the majority of Hull fans. That assumption was challenged earlier this week, when the results of a poll of season ticket holders were made public. It came as something of a surprise to see the club triumphantly announcing that the battle for hearts and minds had been won:

The club can confirm the majority of votes cast are in favour of Hull Tigers with the Allam Family continuing to lead the club

Now, this was not strictly true. As the club go on to explain, of the 15,033 season ticket holders eligible to vote, a mere 2,565 voted in favour. This is slightly more than voted against — there were 2,517 votes for "No to Hull Tigers" — and so it's fair to say that the Yes camp carried the day by a thumping margin of 48. But taking into account the 792 votes for "I am not too concerned and will continue to support the club either way," that's not a majority of "votes cast."

Also worthy of note are the voting options. It wasn't "Yes to Hull Tigers"; it was "Yes to Hull Tigers with the Allam Family continuing to lead the club." This is what psephologists call a leading question, and what everybody else calls a threat. And not a particularly subtle one. To give him his due, Allam has been clear throughout that he will sell up if he doesn't get his way, but when it comes to the delicate business of asking people what they think about things, there are certain rules that need to be followed if the results are to retain any kind of legitimacy.

Julian Finney / Getty Images

In any case, 9,159 of those eligible to vote did not plump for any option at all, leaving the "Yes to Hull Tigers because being named after an animal is better than the club lurching into a financial crisis" with an effective mandate of about 17 percent. To pluck a random point of comparison from the air, this is roughly the same proportion of the electorate that named Boris Johnson as their first choice in the 2012 London Mayoral elections. Sadly for Allam, however, football isn't a democracy, and so he couldn't just impose his dictatorial whims on the vast majority who hadn't voted in favour.

No, football in England is part cartel (most of the important bits that have to do with making money) and part bureaucracy (everything else plus the England team, though it surely can't be long before that gets privatised as well). It was into the dusty corridors of the latter that Allam had to venture: first before the Football Association's membership committee, which unanimously condemned the idea. This condemnation was then passed to the FA Council for a final decision, and 63.5 percent of that august and peculiar body found it all to easy to frame his fearful symmetry.

Whether we are likely to get any detailed explanation of their decision is unclear, but we can at least reflect on the fact that throughout the whole process, Allam has never really explained why he was so keen on the name change. Why, indeed, he has threatened to sell the club should he not get his way. He has asserted that the rebranding would lead to a commercial windfall, yet has consistently failed to produce anything resembling justification, or reasoning, or research. Except, that is, for the supporting assertion that City, as a suffix, is too generic. Perhaps that explains the recent upsurge in Manchester City fans; people have been looking for Hull, getting confused, and settling for whichever City they encountered first.

It looks very much as though the only basis for the name change is that tigers are pretty cool

From where we are, then, it looks very much as though the only basis for the name change is that tigers are pretty cool. Orange and black stripes are a strong look, big sharp teeth are always fun, and although the depredations of fools have meant there are hardly any left in the wild, there's a strong stable of fictional characters — from Tony to Shere Khan — that reinforce their reputation as one of the planet's more excellent creatures.

But excellence as a creature does not a reasonable name for a football team make. And even if the poll can be trusted, and the fans weren't as exercised about the idea as it was generally assumed, it still would have been a profoundly silly thing for the FA to have waved through. Hull have been doing remarkably under Steve Bruce, reaching the FA Cup semi-finals and establishing themselves in the Premier League. It would have been a shame had this season gone down in history as the one in which they transformed into Tigger.

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