Soon, very soon, Hull City AFC are likely to be taken over by new owners and the Allams replaced. They’ll take on a club with great potential, but also with significant problems caused by the Allam family. Here’s how they could go about repairing things…
1. A cost-free way of generating instant goodwill would be the immediate restoration of the term “Hull City AFC” in all club communications. Despite FA rulings stating that the club could not change its name, and an unambiguous undertaking from the outgoing marketing and communications manager in March, the term “Hull City” remains effectively and childishly proscribed. Simple ways of unequivocally drawing a line under the divisive name change farce are to restore the www.hullcityafc.net URL of the official website, cease using ‘Hull Tigers’ on Facebook and Google Plus, have the club’s Twitter posts use the #hcafc hashtag, bin off Hull City Tigers Ltd as a company name, and instruct all club employees, sponsors and partners that the club is called Hull City AFC. The nickname of the Tigers is great, but ‘City’ and ‘AFC’ are beloved by fans too. Use them just as much as ‘The Tigers’ and terrace chants using the nickname can be used again, as its use by the club will no longer be seen as a means of punishing fans who value the club’s identity. An organisation that resents the equity of its branding is insane, the insanity of the last few years can be ended quickly and easily.
2. Restore concessions for seniors, minors and fans with disabilities, in accordance with Premier League rules and common sense.
3. Announce the intention to fully review the membership scheme, and ask supporters what they think should happen. The club’s idea of consultation for a scheme that was supposedly two years in the planning was to tell a few groups and individuals bound by Non Disclosure Agreements, what was going to happen (and it really was a fait accompli, there was no semblance of consultation in the true sense of the word) with some choice details, such as the removal of concessions, being omitted. Maybe the scheme is salvageable, though why a club would want to give supporters previously locked into a 9 month deal with a season pass the freedom to bail out after a few months if performances/results are horrific or if the most appealing home fixtures have already been played seems counter-intuitive. The beauty though is the club can pretty quickly wind down a monthly membership scheme if they put something else in place.
4. Take fan consultation seriously after the membership issue is resolved, don’t just want to be seen to be engaging with supporters, actually do it. That way when you announce a massive undertaking such as restructuring how people pay to watch their club, you’ll know the reaction is going to be broadly positive as there has been interaction throughout the whole process, from planning to execution. Most businesses understand that the way to keep customers happy is to know what they want, and you know what they want by means of consultation. There are some who think that supporters asking for proper engagement have a hidden agenda of wanting to dictate how the club should be run to the owners, but that is drivel, most fans just want to pay a fair price to watch their club in action, and that is best done by asking fans what a fair price is, rather than telling them.
5. The club crest is a good issue to consult on. One of the many broken promises made by the Allams was a fan vote on what a new club crest should look like, but it was changed arbitrarily and spitefully, removing the club name, copying Aston Villa’s shield and filling it with the tiger head and an appallingly kerned year of founding. It’s time to right the wrong of that action, because despite some people liking the new crest’s aesthetics, the reasoning behind its existence is downright ugly.
6. We’ve never won a better trophy than the Third Division title, but nonetheless we have a history to be proud of, so let’s acknowledge it with an element of permanence. Organise a proper Hall Of Fame programme, allowing former managers and players of repute and prominence to occupy an abiding and noticeable – and, most of all, official – berth in the club’s standing. There should be evidence of an appreciation and celebration of the club’s heritage embedded within the modern day Hull City AFC so that older fans can feel their heroes are not disenfranchised and younger fans can learn how the club grew, prospered and developed. For starters, let’s get something done to properly celebrate, commemorate and indelibly illustrate the achievements of Chris Chilton and Ken Wagstaff, the club’s two figures of the past most unconditionally revered. They are both in their mid 70s now.
7. Accept and enthusiastically endorse, as the rest of the Premier League has done, the £30 price cap on away tickets in the Premier League, and provide proper concessions to accompany it.
8. Restore some staff to the ticket office and the turnstiles, so the basic act of paying to watch a match doesn’t feel like a chore to the supporter and an inconvenience to the club.
9. Goal music. Don’t ever be tempted by it.
10. Above all, be conscious that for most people, football is a release at the end of the working week. We want following Hull City AFC to be enjoyable – and that doesn’t mean that we require incessant success. We’d spinelessly gloryhunt if we wanted that. Just keep the supporters in mind with every decision that’s made, and explain them truthfully and openly, and even if results don’t go our way or we don’t agree with everything, we’ll still feel the connection to our club that’s an essential part of the Saturday afternoon experience and we’ll all once again enjoy being a part of the greatest football club that’s ever existed.