You may have seen in the press at the moment, Hull City supporters are in up roar over the proposed change in name of their famous club, from what it’s been since the team were formed in 1904 to ‘Hull Tigers’. Us football fans are a sensitive, sentimental breed. We like things like this – along with our team’s colours – to remain exactly as they have been for decades. After all, it’s our identity. All clubs have a nickname, but to merge it with the official team title…….come on.
This is not the first time this has been muted, but not to such a determined level as the Hull chairman, Assem Allam is pushing his ideals along at. Back in the early eighties when shirt sponsorship first appeared on the scene, the then Coventry City chairman Jimmy Hill (Yes, he of infinite chin, the former Match Of The Day presenter and Sky Blues manager during the sixties), had gained a deal to have a local car manufacturer’s logo on the teams kit. Infact, the entire playing strip was designed around the huge capital ‘T’ of Talbot Cars. While being very striking and having much visual impact, it was straight out of the draw marked ‘bad taste’. It was vile. To add further insult to injury, this Big ‘T’ kit didn’t even have the Coventry City Football Club crest on it. As regards the Big ‘T’, it just made City a soft target for verbal abuse from opposing team’s fans, choosing their favourite expletive or derogatory comment for what the Big ‘T’ might mean. To be frank, when Coventry played abysmally, the home support would join in too.
Hill remonstrated the Sky Blues had evolved from the insignificant beginnings of being the works side of the now long demised Singer car factory. Over the years, the Singer name was by then owned by Talbot, so Hill was keen to keep the connection between club and the company. Hill added, many of Talbot’s employees who worked in their Coventry factories were Sky Blues supporters, so were ‘effectively’ working for the Sky Blues while the players represented their factory. It also emerged in the press at the time, Hill was planning to turn the club into an American style marketing franchise, renaming Coventry City – wait for it – Coventry Talbot. Just as the Hull fans are up in arms at the moment, all Sky Blues supporters were having none of it back then. Also, with Talbot as club sponsor, they supplied all first team players and club officials with an example of their cars each. This may well go to explain why then manager Dave Sexton had immense trouble attracting any half decent player to Highfield Road – they would have a Talbot Solara or Alpine to use as they wished.
Jimmy Hill left Highfield Road in the summer of 1983, Iain Jamieson taking over the chairmanship of the club, and thus all this pantomime and farce was dropped. Our team kept its name, it’s identity, and more importantly, the club crest returned onto the chest of the player’s shirts. The sponsorship deal with Talbot came to an end, with a local plastics manufacturer replacing them. Thankfully, there was no attempt to incorporate their brand into the team name. The one thing Jimmy Hill did keep consistent, and no desire to change was the club colours. I suppose this would have been even more difficult to achieve than what has happened at Cardiff City recently, considering Coventry City’s nickname is the club colour – Sky Blue. Plus, it was Hill himself who introduced the team’s all sky blue kit when he became first team manager in 1962.
In other sports (Rugby League, Twenty 20 Cricket), rebranding and using more exciting names works like a charm. Within the realms of motorsport, a sponsor’s brand is frequently incorporated into a team’s title, especially in NASCAR in the United States. I’d hate for my Coventry to adapt a daft Rugby League-esque tag, something along the lines of ‘Coventry Stampede’, tying in with the club mascot being an elephant. Honestly. Perhaps this just shows how stuffy us British actually are, not willing to change within some circles. But then, maybe it simply demonstrates us football supporters will not sell their soul – or more importantly that of their clubs – to the highest bidder. I’m thinking the latter, as that’s why when our stadia are sponsored or renamed under the brand of a huge, multi-national conglomerate, it does grate somewhat.
Hull City’s nickname is the Tigers for the same reason Coventry City are the Sky Blues – club colours. ‘Tigers’ is just an affectionate nickname, not an official club moniker, however with the situation on the South Wales coast at Cardiff, ‘Bluebirds’ no longer fits them. Their chairman, Vincent Tan, with the introduction of the red kit, and as he has stated about the Welsh heritage links, will want the team nicknamed ‘Red Dragons’. You heard it here first.