Jim White

Hate the name ‘Hull Tigers’? Just don’t use it!

Here’s an idea: if everyone in the media agreed that they will continue to call Hull’s football team City, whatever the FA decides about the proposed change to some stupid animal name, then the whole preposterous rebranding exercise by the club’s owner will be undermined.

If on the radio, on the television commentary, in the fixture list, in classified results and the league tables, Steve Bruce’s side are invariably called City, then the entire supposed purpose of the name change will be emasculated.

If it has been done for publicity, then it is up to those in charge of the delivery of that publicity to show a bit more spine than the regulators of the game and ensure as an idea this silly business never gets off the ground.

There is not a lot the rest of us can do when modern football club owners vandalise the game’s heritage. While Cardiff fans are doing their best by boycotting sales of replica version of the freshly re-coloured red City shirt, unfortunately every time Malky Mackay’s players step out in the aberrations, their nature of their uniform is communicated around the globe and Vincent Tan’s wishes have trumped those of his club’s supporters.

But a name is a much more ethereal thing. It gains meaning and resonance in the way it is used or written. And if no-one uses the new name it will never actually come into being, whatever the intentions of the bonkers Hull owners.

It is like when Mike Ashley, another owner with scant regard to the nature of his property, changed the name of Newcastle United’s home. Everyone steadfastly refused to call it anything other than St James’s Park until the point where the new name sponsor realised they were on a hiding to nothing and made a big point of officially reverting to the old title.

For the outsider it might seem petty to get so fretful about a name. But to those affiliated with an organisation a name is all they have.

There is a reason the fans at the KC Stadium chant “City till I die”. It is because the name is the rallying point of their collective identity. Players come and go. Managers come and go.

Even – though Allam probably refuses to accept it – owners come and go. But a name lives on.

And while Allam might well have done good things for the club with his investment, believing he has the right to interfere with something of such fundamental importance to his customers is as bizarre as it is self-defeating.

He insists that the name City is old-fashioned. That his club needs a rebrand to attract a new worldwide audience. But that surely is totally to misunderstand the nature of branding.

In isolation the word United, for instance, may well be an old-fashioned phrase depicting a community heritage long ago left behind by the imperatives of modern football commercialism. Manchester, too, is a town which has little resonance among the citizens of Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Yet, together those two words Manchester United combine to make one of the strongest brands in the world.

Anyone would have to be a certifiable loon to suggest, in order to pep up their appeal in the far east, the club needs to be rebranded as the Ultra Red Devils.

And Hull City is of similar meaning. Calling them Hull Tigers is not going to accelerate their penetration of the new football markets. The reason they are not yet capturing the shirts sales in downtown Shanghai is not because of the name. It is because they are newcomers to the globally-recognised game that is the Premier League.

Five years ago, no-one was buying sky blue replica shirts in the numbers they now shift in Cape Town and Canberra. But that was not because the club they represented was called City. It was because Manchester City were not then the force they are now. What sells is not the name. It’s the meaning behind the name.

Without a track record, you could call Hull the Great White Sharks but it wouldn’t mean you would make a killing.

The way to expand is to do well on the pitch. There is no other short cut. And the best way to do well on the pitch is to ensure that everyone in a football club – players, management, board and fans – are united in collective effort.

Which is why Allam’s cack-handed assault on his core customers sensibilities is so short-sighted. The name clearly means something to them. It matters. City is what unites them.

In this case, the FA need not take long in its deliberations. It is absolutely evident that the name change at the KC is nothing less than cultural vandalism. Assam’s proposal should be thrown out with immediate effect.

Though just in case the FA forgets to stand by the game it represents, everyone involved in the game should agree here and now that the existing name is the only one that will ever be used. Whatever we might feel about the team on the pitch, off it on this we should be united: we are all City till we die.