The Soul of Hull City #18: Tennis ball protest at Bolton

Fan culture


City fans were already miffed that tennis tosser David Lloyd had merged many functions of both the Tigers and egg-chasers Hull Sharks (as Hull FC were then known) such as the feebly named ‘Tiger-Sharks Inc.’ club shops, and were deeply suspicious that what little money Hull City had was being diverted to fund the rugby league clubs ambitions. The petulant fool had several times threatened to close both clubs down if the people of Hull (who he branded ‘crap’ in one interview) didn’t back his plans, and when he announced that City would leave Boothferry Park and become tenants at the dilapidated Boulevard ground, Tiger Nationals were enraged.

A beer fuelled meeting of the TOSS and Amber Nectar fanzines determined that protest needed to be made, and the forthcoming League Cup tie at Bolton seemed the perfect time. It was agreed that in order to truly grab the attention of the media, and in turn the sporting public, we needed to delay or disrupt the game somehow. A pitch invasion was deemed unacceptable as the publicity would be wholly negative, so a Nectarine suggested throwing tennis balls on the pitch, it made sense; it was non-violent, highly visible and amusingly ironic as former tennis pro Lloyd was the current Davis Cup captain.

A few hundred tennis balls were purchased and randomly distributed to willing supporters on the coaches bound for the Reebok Stadium. Just before kick off, they were hurled onto the turf, a few at first, then en masse creating a vivid shower of luminous orbs to the bemusement of the players, officials and watching media. Radio Humberside’s Gwilym Lloyd, despite having been tipped off about the protest, curiously stated on air that it was apples being thrown at Steve Wilson, musing that maybe it was a twist on the old ‘oranges for Ian McKechnie’ ritual of yore. Nonetheless the media lapped it up, and each subsequent report in the national press increased the estimate of tennis balls used, a few hundred had become ‘thousands’. The protest worked better than anyone could have anticipated, and a humiliated Lloyd soon announced he was putting the club up for sale. Game, set and match to City fans.