All Hull want for Christmas is points on the board to take them out of the relegation zone. With a question mark over the club as a model for a multi-sport operation, let alone over its very name, Tony Dawber speaks to independent fan group spokesman Ian Waterson.
As far as Christmas programmes go, Hull City’s, against Sunderland away, then Leicester and Everton at home, could not be more crucial.
Like Wigan and Huddersfield, two other clubs that share their homes with rugby league outfits, Hull are struggling as the heavy seasonal schedule approaches. The huge difference, of course, is that failure would mean Wigan and Huddersfield dropping from the second flight to the third. For Hull to drop out of the Premier League has huge financial implications.
And all this is backdropped by an ongoing dispute between fans and club owner Assem Allam, who wants to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers – which even sounds more like a rugby team.
Perhaps the multi-sport model is one doomed to failure in Britain.
Not so, according to Ian Waterson, editor of Hull City Independent and a leading light in the campaign against the name change.
In fact, HCI’s ultimate vision is for a club run along those very lines.
Waterson explains that it was a strategy that emerged after their successful campaign against the name change.
‘We drew all the fan groups together and did everything by the rules,’ says Waterson. ‘And the FA arbitration panel agreed that was the case.’
He said the campaign was praised by the FA and nationally for the way it was conducted, and said at that point, they looked to the future and could see that was a way to run things rather than rely on a benefactor, usually from abroad, as the top Premier League clubs do
‘In Britain, the sugar daddy model is seen as the only way to do things,’ he outlines. ‘But we disagree.’
Waterson compares the potential of the Hull model with that of Barcelona, where many sports operate under the same umbrella.
‘It’s a long way down the line,’ he quickly points out. ‘We admit that. But our ultimate aim is to pull all the fans together and have a members-run club on the continental model, where the fans effectively make the big decisions in a democratic way.’
‘It’s not only the Spanish sides, but the likes of Bayern Munich who are also run on those lines. Look how successful they have been!’
It would be a shade ironic if Hull proved to be the very city where this vision took off, given the historical animosity between the city’s football and rugby league sides.
But as Waterson points out, those old rivalries are fast dying out.
‘The RL fans always put City down as they had never been in the top flight, but once we made it to the Premier League and they saw how high the profile of the area was raised on a global level, there was no argument.’
‘They saw what happened and accepted it. Now our vision is of a united body where fans back all the sides representing Hull. We are already making preliminary plans to push this campaign.’
A revolutionary and a boldly visionary picture indeed, but in the short term, there is the grim prospect of relegation for Hull City to face.
‘It will be tough,’ says Waterson, ‘but the fans are almost unanimously behind manager Steve Bruce. We know he is a decent man, and a good manager, and we are urging everyone to trust in him in the weeks ahead.’
‘There’s a strong belief that once the injury situation improves, it’s a war that we can win.’