It is not only their nationality, business acumen, and balding and portly looks that Assem Allam and Mohamed Al-Fayed have in common. No siree. It’s also a disregard for followers of the clubs they own. The news of Allam’s ‘‘they can die as soon as they want’’ comments – aimed at Hull City fans for singing ‘‘City till we die’’ in protest against his plans to rename the club Hull Tigers – reminded me of Al-Fayed’s very own ‘‘they can go to hell or go to Chelsea’’ attack on Fulham supporters.
This most public footballing example of his indifference was his retort that fans of the club were ‘‘stupid’’ if they didn’t agree that Craven Cottage should be home to a (badly made) statue of a pop star with no affiliation with the club other than a one-off appearance at the ground 12 years previously. That was more comical if anything, but even if the arrogant attitude is the same, Allam’s name change idea is on a different scale (although one could say that at least Allam’s has got a practical purpose behind it whereas Al-Fayed’s was based purely on his emotions, so was actually more self-indulging. You’ve got to be pig-headed to be in business it seems, but senility could well have been involved).
Whether the word ‘Tigers’ would prove more lucrative than ‘City’ is very debateable. But even if it is, some things are worth preserving. Times change and so do colours, as we have controversially seen at Cardiff City in the very recent past. Crystal Palace and Millwall have had a number of different home colours over the years. And Leeds United had blue and white stripes, blue and yellow half and half, and just blue before their iconic all-white strip; which is what Don Revie changed it to in order to emulate the all-conquering Real Madrid.
A name is a different matter, though. Football is the most popular sport in the world, so what makes Allam think that the American sounding ‘Tigers’ will be more profitable than ‘City’? ‘‘In the commercial world, the shorter the name the better’’ according to Allam. Maybe I’m a dumb-ass (I’ll use American-speak seeing as it’s more ‘fiscally rewarding’), but I thought ‘City’ and ‘Tigers’ both had two syllables. The latter has an extra letter as well if we were to get pedantic about it. He used Coca-Cola as an example. I think we can see what’s wrong with that hypothesis can’t we? How does he know it will be beneficial? ‘‘By me saying that, and only me’’ replies Hull’s chairman. Funny really, there was an Austrian leader in the 1930s and 40s who would reach decisions based on a similar premise to Allam’s.
Just as some of us look in awe at names such as Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, people around the world buy into England’s traditional names such as City. It’s the same reason why tourists like to visit ye olde parts of the country: it’s the history of the places and the names that interests and draws them in.
Mohamed Al-Fayed and Assem Allam may have pumped money into Fulham and Hull City respectively, but it doesn’t mean they should mess with the attachments that the supporters have built up with those clubs over generations. It’s totally fine to put forward an idea, but the arrogance in telling fans to ‘‘go to hell’’ and ‘‘die as soon as they want’’ (well, at least he’s giving them the option of when they want to perish) for merely stating a different opinion to theirs is what dictatorships are made of.
They saved the clubs from possible financial ruin, which arguably helped both regain top-flight status. But if someone saved your life, you would not then expect that person to insist that you change your name for financial gain and agree with everything they say, and that they are right in everything they do because they saved your life.
Al-Fayed’s statue debacle was less personal and more embarrassing to his club’s supporters than Allam’s proposal, but the monument was taken down shortly after Shahid Khan’s arrival at Craven Cottage this summer. Allam has got his own way for most of his life, so like the statue, it’s about time his ego was taken down a peg or six.
A different kind of chairman orrrrr…?
Speaking after their defeat by Derby County the weekend before last, Wigan Athletic chairman, Dave Whelan, said of his reasons for forcing Owen Coyle out of the club, ‘‘the fans expect the manager to pick the best team and for them to fight and graft. On Sunday that didn’t happen and it’s been the case for the last two or three [matches].’’ Yeah, because two or three games is more than you need to sack a manager. It’s not as if they had another 31 league contests to base it on. It’s like nominating Adnan Januzaj for Young BBC Sports Personality of the Year after only 11 matches under his elasticated shorts. Hang on a minute…
What do you think of Allam’s proposal and Owen Coyle’s exit from Wigan? Feel free to leave me any comments on here and/or on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress or YouTube.
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