You might say that Hull were rather emphasising the point on Monday, when they responded to a story by the Athletic about what a mess the club was in.
Hull released a statement not only alerting everyone to that story before it was published, but also publishing a redacted version of the Athletic’s email to them outlining the allegations, which they had unfortunately forgotten to redact.
Among other things, the story outlines how Hull now have to navigate the final days of a Championship battle without their captain Eric Lichaj and longest-serving player Jackson Irvine, at least partly because they essentially asked their out of contract players to play for free beyond June 30.
This is the culmination of a steady decline of a club that has seen the relationship between Assem Allam and the Allam family, once beloved and popular owners, and Hull fans to completely disintegrate.
The Athletic’s Adam Crafton, who led the reporting of the story, joined the Totally Football League Show this week to discuss how on earth things reached this point.
“If we take a bit more the long lens view of Hull over the last nine or 10 years, the Allam family can justifiably argue they saved the club and around 2010/11 when they came in. There was a winding up order at the time, big bills that they invested money into, to pay off and probably in loans they probably invested around £80million into the club
“They’ve reached an F.A. Cup final – for a club of Hull City’s size, that is a really good return. Yet the supporters hugely resent the owners. It can be traced to two major events, one of which was the attempt to change the name from Hull City AFC to Hull Tigers, and the fallout that resulted from that – the relationship has never recovered.
“Then on top of that, there’s been other issues, such as the removal of concession ticket prices for children or pensioners at home matches. I think that explains a lot of the reasons why.
“It’s a huge shame because…this isn’t a case of an owner who may be from a far flung place in the world and has no interest in the local area. This is a guy who has made the city his home and clearly has a local interest, but for several reasons that relationship between the fan base has been destroyed.”
Of all the many elements to emerge from the story, which was the most surprising?
“I think the toxicity of the relationship with Steve Bruce surprised me just because, you look at Steve Bruce during his career and he doesn’t seem like someone that finds it very easy to fall out so dramatically with people.
“He has worked for demanding owners over over the years – look who he’s working for now at Newcastle.
“Around five months before he left the club, there was a huge row that took place because a member of Bruce’s sports science staff wanted to look after a relative who was unwell and Bruce said to them “Go on, go home, look after them, and we’ll give you paid leave.” The story goes that Ehab Allam, the vice chair, found out about this and said it wouldn’t be possible.
“There was a huge row between Bruce and Allam that apparently culminated in Bruce being fired pretty much on the spot before Hull then changed their mind. Then he gets them promoted. But all amongst this Allam was carrying out negotiations with an American investor, Peter Grieve for a sale and apparently also tried to insert into the sale a condition that Bruce should be removed from his job, should the takeover go ahead.
“That the takeover in the end never went ahead, but the investor was very clear that he wouldn’t be told who would be his manager by the person selling the club. Hull, we should say, dismiss it as misleading tittle tattle.”
Several potential takeovers have failed in the last few years, which does beg the question: do they actually want to sell the club?
“The impression I have – and obviously only the family can say for themselves – is they want their money back,” said Adam.
“And that means that they want the loans that they’ve put in over the years, they want that back. In line with the latest player sales over the last couple of years, I think their loans are probably now down to around £42million.
“It’s always been the case over the last few years that their asking price has almost been dictated by a combination of the loans that they’re owed, the position of the club in the table and the playing assets.
“They don’t own the stadium, they do own a small training ground, but the problem they have now, as it’s very, very feasible that they are going to be a third division club that does not own a stadium, is pretty much stripped of saleable player assets and will require quite significant investment into the playing staff and coaching staff to get back to where it needs to go to.
“So this idea that the club should be worth around, as several sources tell us, £42 – 46million just does not seem realistic in that light. One source who brings venture capitalists and investors to the table was saying that they value it similarly to Wigan, who were sold for around £20 million last year.
“There’s clearly a big discrepancy between the asking price and the valuation of the club, according to investors, and therefore sort of leaves them locked in this very, very unhappy relationship together.”
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