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Party kills my adopted family.
I was playing Pathfinder at my local gaming store. I am normally the youngest playing and this isn't a very serious game. I am playing a True Neutral Lizard-folk rogue. We are all high level characters trying to find and destroy some evil artifacts. We destroyed a pillar that housed one of these artifacts and when it got blown up we got attacked by red, blue and green Slaads. They died pretty quickly, but only my character somehow got sent to the Limbo with all the dead Slaad returning. So while the others are doing what they're doing I'm in Limbo and I get adopted by one of the Slaads ( I think the DM didn't want my character to die cause you know I was surrounded by enemies). My character spent close to a year in Limbo while for everyone else it had been only 15 minutes. In that time I was in Limbo I decided I wanted to teach them Rugby.
So my character get summoned into a circle of protection (Chaos) and that's when the rest of the party shows up through means of teleportation. They kill the guy who summoned me. He didn't summon me specifically, he was summoning Slaads. After the summoner died 9 Slaads showed up inside the summoning circle. They looked really squished up against the barrier that they really shouldn't fit in, so I decided to free them from the circle cause no one should be caged even if they are evil. Two of the party members were going to cast fireball of the Slaads. I, in character, said "No! Don't they're my friends! They're my family! Please don't kill them!" Spells went up and my family got murdered by my party. I am is angry at them! The Slaads didn't attack us or do anything vaguely hostile. One of the party members said, "They're evil. They would have attacked us." Slaad are NOT evil they are chaotic neutral and the last thing my family said was "Let's settle this on the field." Then they were murdered!
Where they right in killing them? How can my character forgive them? Was it an evil act in killing them cause they were not hostile towards us? Sorry if this is the wrong place to post this.
TL;DR: Got adopted by Slaads and the party killed them.
Edit: Thank you to anyone that commented. I am going to talk to my DM and see what he wants to do. I'll post an update later telling you all the results.
Edit 2: The talk went well. The DM didn't know I was mad out of game, but talking it out helped. DM told me I didn't personally know any of the Slaads that died which I guess that helped. My character considered the groups of Slaads that she has taught Rugby all as friends and a few as family, but when they a all grouped up it is hard to tell in 12 second period if you know any of them. Since we've done PvP before I thought the best way to help my character forgive them was to have a friendly fight. One on one to half health. The fight ended in a tie cause we got interrupted by something more important, but it helped a lot. Kind of like when you punch a pillow or wall when your mad. I love playing that character to much to retire them and the DM didn't think that was needed. I will admit I was still a bit mad when I posted this so I did miss a detail that my party pointed out. All but the leader Slaad looked like they were going to attack and out of game the DM said if we hadn't killed them they were gonna challenge us to a rugby match.
The Athletic - Special investigation: The story of Hull City’s decline (full Article)
For Hull, it has been an alarming decline, taking only two points from the 36 available since January 2. Since beating Sheffield Wednesday on New Year’s Day to stand only a point short of the play-offs, they have hurtled down the table. Hull have lost 10, scoring only nine goals and conceding 30, in a 12-game period.
A Premier League club three years ago, Hull are knee-deep in the relegation quick-sand and sliding towards the third tier of English football for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
On Saturday afternoon, vice-chairman Ehab Allam — the son of owner Assem Allam — watched from the directors’ box, wearing a club tracksuit, and saw the extent of the malaise laid bare before his eyes.
He saw the culmination of a period of uncertainty that has ripped the Yorkshire club apart, alienating managers, sacrificing leading players and exasperating large swathes of the local support.
In February 2017, just shy of 25,000 watched as Hull beat Liverpool 2-0 in the Premier League. Yet earlier this season, attendances plummeted to four figures for the first time at the KCOM Stadium for home fixtures against Preston (9,826) and Swansea (9,757), Hull’s lowest home turnouts since a 1-0 win over Boston United in the fourth tier in November 2002.
For several weeks, The Athletic has spoken to those, on and off the field, who have worked closely with the Allam regime to tell the full, no-holds-barred story of Hull’s decline over the past four years.
An investigation has uncovered:
The Allam family still want more than £40 million to sell the club. Hull must fight for survival without captain Eric Lichaj, vice-captain Jackson Irvine and other out-of-contract players after asking them to “play for free” for the rest of this season. Players rejected a 20 per cent pay cut while play was suspended and it is understood not every player took a 25 per cent wage deferral. In February 2016, three months before leading Hull to the Premier League via the play-offs, then-manager Steve Bruce was sacked and then reinstated by Ehab Allam after a row about paying a member of staff while he supported his family. One failed takeover included an attempt to impose a condition that Bruce must be sacked as manager. The extent of the discord between the club’s owners and large swathes of its fanbase, dating back to Assem Allam’s attempt to rename them “Hull Tigers”. This is the story of how they got here under the current ownership, of a dressing room that has become strained and lost key personnel, and what is in the store for the future of the club.
As Hull City’s players congregated for their final week of training before Championship football resumed, Ehab Allam made an impromptu visit to the club’s Cottingham training ground.
Like several Championship clubs, Hull are battling relegation while harbouring uncertainty over the futures of many members of their first-team squad. In Hull’s case, this came to a head last Monday.
The contracts of captain Lichaj and vice-captain Irvine — the latter the only player on Hull’s books to have played 100 games for the club — are due to expire on June 30. Having failed to secure agreements to play on for the remainder of the season or beyond, Allam and manager Grant McCann informed the duo their services would not be required for the final matches of June against two other bottom-half sides, Charlton and Birmingham City. As such, two of Hull’s most senior players were sent to train in isolation and are no longer under consideration for group sessions as well as the month’s remaining fixtures.
Lichaj was stunned by the club’s proposal. Hull had the option to extend his deal by an extra year and indicated they wished to do so — but only if he accepted a cut of almost 50 per cent from his usual salary. This offer was rejected, with Lichaj’s representatives suggesting that the option be triggered on the same terms but with a relegation clause that would allow the defender to leave for free — therefore allowing Hull to relax their salary obligation — should the club go down at the end of the season. Hull did not take this up and conversations then turned to whether a short-term deal could be agreed to keep Lichaj while they finish up their 2019-20 fixtures next month.
Contracts in football usually expire on June 30 but players receive an additional month of money as part of their severance pay. Therefore, as Premier League and Championship clubs agree deals until the close of the campaign at the end of July, they have agreed an additional month’s worth of salary. However, Hull are said to have startled their out-of-contract players by asking them to play on until the close of the campaign, without adding the extra month of wages.
The same fates befell Marcus Maddison and Stephen Kingsley, while Hull were also unable to secure loan player Mallik Wilks to play beyond the end of June in negotiations with relegation rivals Barnsley. The two clubs are scrapping to remain in the Championship but are also in dispute over a final payment for the transfer of Angus MacDonald, the 27-year-old defender who was the feel-good story for Hull this past weekend as he started for the first time in 22 months after overcoming bowel cancer.
Hull did not address any points put to them by The Athletic and instead described our email as “ill-informed, substantially inaccurate, tittle-tattle and misleading gossip”.
Back at the training ground, players are unimpressed. One source close to negotiations claimed: “Hull wanted to know if players would play during the month of severance. They knew the answer to that question before they even asked it. Without making players new contract offers, they wanted them to play on for them.
“To a man, pretty much, they said, ‘No, we are not going to play in our severance month and risk getting injured and risk our future.’ These guys are not on crazy money and they cannot risk their future prospects with an offer like this.”
An agent of a Hull player who remains at the club explains: “The rumour amongst the players is that the club wanted anyone on a short-term contract just to play for free. Those players basically said, ‘No way.’ They told the club where to go. That’s what the players have been talking about in their group chat. There’s a bit of a sense of, ‘What the hell is happening at the club?'”
Hull declined to comment in detail, saying in a statement published first on their website that contracts, conversations and dealings between players, the club and the staff are confidential.
The Hull dressing room already became tense as the club attempted to secure cuts and deferrals at the height of the pandemic. The players outright declined a proposal to reduce wages by 20 per cent but The Athletic understands the club did eventually secure a four-month 25 per cent deferral, to be repaid by the end of 2020. Yet it is understood that not all of the club’s players agreed to take part in the deferral scheme.
As agents gossip and whisper among themselves ahead of the transfer window, there is widespread agreement that Hull will look to further cut costs this summer. Several agents said Hull have indicated weekly salary offers will be as low as £4,000 per week for prospective signings, even if they stay in the Championship. “They might stretch to £6,000 for a marquee signing,” one agent quipped.
In many ways, Hull do stand as a rare beacon of sound finances in a division that is so often distorted by owners who pursue the Premier League dream at the expense of a long-term and sustainable plan. Hull, by contrast, were one of only two Championship clubs to record an operating and pre-tax profit for the 2018-19 season, while a strategic report filed by the Allam family’s portfolio of businesses for the end of 2019 showed the club made only a narrow loss.
In January, 17-goal top scorer Jarrod Bowen was sold to top-flight West Ham United in an initial £18 million deal. Poland international Kamil Grosicki, who had scored seven goals this season and was reported to be the club’s highest earner on £27,000 a week, moved to current Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion the same day. Between them, the pair had scored more than half of Hull’s 41 goals in the division before departing.
It is little wonder that Ehab Allam was the most vocal Championship club representative in calling for the season not to resume, while McCann made similar noises in meetings of second-tier managers hosted by the League Managers’ Association. Indeed, Allam even wrote to Football League chairman Rick Parry, arguing that the campaign should be voided.
For Hull supporters, it ought to have been the best of times.
In May 2016, Bruce’s team, including players such as Andy Robertson and Harry Maguire, defeated Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship play-off final to return to the Premier League. Back in the big time and the land of opportunity. Yet by the August, Hull had only 13 fit senior professionals, two of them goalkeepers. Bruce had gone and Mike Phelan, the long-serving assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, found himself in caretaker charge.
Bruce had quit in late July after the relationship between him and vice-chairman Ehab Allam, owner Assem’s son, spectacularly imploded. It had not always been this way. After Bruce got promoted Hull for the first time in 2013, automatically on that occasion, Assem Allam gushed: “Steve is such a good, honest man and a good football man. I do not know where you will find better than Steve Bruce, I honestly don’t know.”
Behind the scenes, however, the bonds fractured. The tension began when Hull were relegated from the Premier League in 2014-15 and Bruce offered to resign. The owners declined the offer but the relationship did not recover. At the start of the following season, back in the Championship, Bruce wanted to sign Brentford striker Andre Gray, but the owners did not agree. Gray scored 25 goals for Burnley instead as they won the Championship title, although Hull still achieved promotion too. Yet the sore festered.
The Athletic can reveal for the first time how, in February 2016, Bruce was sacked — and swiftly unsacked — by Ehab Allam. The dispute centred over a member of Bruce’s sports science staff, who had approached him to explain a relative was unwell and that he would need some time out to tend to his family. Bruce told him he could take the absence as paid leave, yet when Ehab found out, he insisted it would be unpaid. Bruce vigorously defended his staff and a furious row broke out, culminating in Ehab sacking the manager on the spot, only to reverse the decision the very same day. “But his card was marked,” a source close to the situation recalls.
For several years, Bruce’s frustration over perceived boardroom penny-pinching had built up. The manager and his coaching staff did not have company cars, for example, despite travelling the length and breadth of the country on club business for match preparation and scouting. Keith Bertschin, the first-team coach, was particularly aggrieved.
This culminated in a prank whereby Bruce’s staff headed in one morning and placed a series of envelopes on every desk — except for Bertschin’s. The staff members pretended the envelopes had promised cars, although Bertschin’s age (he is three years older than Bruce) was deemed to exclude him. Bertschin stomped around for several hours before his colleagues eventually admitted it was a wind-up and, in fact, nobody would be getting a car.
Those who have worked under Assem Allam say he can be extremely “generous”. But one source says: “He doesn’t take advice and sees everything in black and white terms. He tends to use local lawyers and accountants, who would be very grateful for the business, so I don’t suppose anybody disagrees with him.” Ehab is said to be “in his father’s mould” but a “bit more progressive, pragmatic and flexible”.
Bruce may not agree. The company-car incident detailed above happened early in the manager’s four-year reign and nobody back then could have foreseen then how spiteful the relationship would become.
Take, for example, a remarkable allegation from the spring of 2016, as the team closed in on that Wembley promotion triumph.
Hull’s owners had decided to sell the club and, in April and May, they held extensive talks over a takeover with the American investment banker Peter Grieve. As negotiations edged towards a conclusion, the consortium was startled to hear from Ehab Assem that a condition of the takeover going ahead would be the removal of Bruce as manager. He suggested Paulo Sousa or David Moyes would make for sound replacements. Grieve’s bid, fronted by-then former Hull chief executive Nick Thompson, who had worked under the Allam family earlier in their tenure, categorically refused the request.
To this day, there is still confusion as to why the Grieve takeover failed to materialise. Grieve was the family’s guest of honour in a private box for the play-off final. Assem has claimed the money did not come through but Thompson tells The Athletic: “Obviously I have skin in the game on that one. I was part of that group. This was the most realistic.
“Ehab went on the record to say he (Grieve) did not have the money but I saw a proof of funds before I even took Peter to talk to the club. What I do know is the price changed a number of times. The price was agreed literally on the eve of the play-off final. There was a price agreed for a Championship club, if Hull won, and the price of a Premier League club. Within 24 hours of the play-off final, that went up and it went up on a number of other occasions. Each time, Peter moved with their price.”
By that time, Thompson was the chief executive of a telecoms business but he had secured permission from his employers to be released in the event of the successful takeover of Hull. A supporter of the club, Thompson watched from the stands as his team won promotion, 1-0, with a Mohamed Diame goal. He was convinced he would be returning to the club as chairman. He says: “I actually got a text while I was still at Wembley at that point from my chairman at the telecoms company to say, ‘Congratulations, Mr Chairman!’ That’s how close it was. We thought we were nailed-on.”
When did it start to go wrong? Thompson says: “When Ehab called Peter on that Saturday night to tell him the price had gone up. Peter agreed to the new price. But at that point, you started to wonder what was going on.
“We realised something was seriously going wrong on the first Friday in June. Ehab was meant to be on a train to London to meet Peter Grieve at his hotel to sign all the papers. All the papers were ready at that point. That afternoon, I got a call from Peter to say Ehab had not turned up. I knew he had gone on a train that morning as I saw someone at an event who said they had seen Ehab at the train station and he was going down to London. So I think that was it, really. What happened? He was probably made aware there may be higher offers to come in and he decided to step away.”
The negotiations were sufficiently advanced for the prospective new owners to discuss the future and potential signings with Bruce. The incentive-based deal, it is understood, would have reached £130 million.
Despite initially cooling talks, the Allams returned to Grieve. Yet during the next phase of discussions, a new sticking point emerged.
Hull City do not own the ground they play in. The KCOM Stadium was built and is owned by Hull City Council, and is operated on a long lease by the Allams-owned SuperStadium Management Company (SMC). Potential bidders have always presumed that any offer to buy the club would include control of the venue.
Thompson recalls: “About two-and-a-half weeks after Ehab didn’t turn up at the hotel, he then went back to Peter and said, ‘Sorry I made a mistake, I got my head turned by other people. Could we have another go at it?’ It was in those negotiations that Assem then dropped the bombshell that ‘This is for the club. What will you give me for the stadium management company?’ Peter then walked away and his words to me were, ‘They think I’m a chump.’ So that was the price for the club, but now there is an additional price to be negotiated for the stadium management company.”
Hull did not respond to our request for comment on these specific points, as they said in a statement, “discussions over the sale of shares of the club are confidential.”
As Hull prepared for the Premier League that summer, the ownership situation was plunged into disarray. Bruce walked out as the club refused to commit to a transfer budget for strengthening the squad ahead of the new campaign. A Chinese consortium, led by now-Reading owner Dai Yongge, were given a tour of the KCOM but any potential deal collapsed amid unconfirmed suggestions they had failed the Premier League’s fit and proper person test in the August.
As the pursuit of a buyer spiralled out of control, so too did the incumbent owners’ haphazard attempts to recruit a manager.
Bruce quit on July 22, three weeks before the start of the Premier League season. The story goes that the news first leaked when former Hull striker Shane Long received a text message while he was conducting an interview with a journalist in Southampton. Earlier in the same week, Bruce’s stock was sufficiently high for him to be interviewed for the vacant England manager’s job. He was ultimately beaten to the gig by Sam Allardyce.
Former Manchester United captain Bruce was popular with Hull’s players. One of his old charges tells The Athletic: “In terms of a squad and a set of lads, it is probably my favourite time in football. Nobody really had an option but to live near each other in Hull, so we spent a lot of time doing things together.
“Because of where it is in the country it is difficult to get players to join, and if you turn up and see the training ground the way it was, it would probably make you turn around. It was incredibly basic when I first signed — pretty much a working man’s club in the canteen. The bar was still in place, food would be served over the top. Steve drastically updated what was there. He got a proper kitchen put in and made the place more enjoyable to be around. Proper changing rooms put in with individual lockers.
“I think there was a chance there to have something left from the Premier League money, a training ground for this day and age. But that never materialised. I am not sure why. Steve probably left in the end through having such difficulties to get funds to sign players.”
In an interview with The Yorkshire Post after leaving the club, Bruce said he “needed a break after all the shenanigans at Hull” and “with Ehab involved, there was a big difference of opinion too many times.”
Back at Hull, the Allam family tried and failed to recruit Chris Coleman, whose reputation had soared as Wales manager. The first approach arrived before the European Championship finals in France that summer, where Wales improbably reached the semi-finals, and Hull would make three offers over a two-year period to try to land Coleman. With Coleman not prepared to walk away from Wales before a tournament, Ehab then interviewed Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Martinez, neither of whom took the job. Phelan, therefore, ended up holding the fort for five months until Marco Silva was appointed at the start of 2017.
Perhaps, most remarkably, though, it can now be revealed Silva had gone for the job that previous summer, only for the owners to dismiss his application. However, Silva received a second chance in the autumn when Paul Stretford, Wayne Rooney’s agent, took it upon himself to visit the Allams at their company headquarters in Yorkshire.
Stretford, according to sources close to the club, ultimately convinced them of Silva’s merits.
It may seem inconceivable now but there was a time that the Allam family were revered on Humberside.
Assem, a now 80-year-old businessman, fled from Egypt’s dictatorship in the 1960s. As a young and outspoken critic of Colonel Nasser’s dictatorship, his life was at risk. “I was arrested, I had my share of torture,” he told the BBC.
Allam escaped to England and made Hull his home. He studied at the local university. He worked for Tempest Diesels, before buying the company himself and changing the name to Allam Marine, manufacturing and supplying generators. He started in England with £20 to his name and, according to the 2020 Sunday Times Rich List, his family now has a fortune of £210 million. A long-time ally of former prime minister Tony Blair, Allam donated £400,000 to Ed Miliband’s Labour Party in 2014 but the businessman’s latest financial accounts for 2019 show he may have switched sides, as he recorded a £45,000 donation to Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party last year.
In the local area, his contribution has been philanthropic. At the University of Hull, he ploughed £10 million into a centre for cancer and metabolic research and invested more than £100,000 to fund training for youngsters at non-League club North Ferriby United. Allam is a local entrepreneur who has lived in nearby Cottingham since 1968. He clearly cares deeply for his area.
Hull have spent only five seasons in their history in the top flight, and three of those have been under the current ownership. The people of Hull are more familiar with trips to Wembley to watch rugby league than football (the city has two Super League teams, Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers) and yet Hull City reached the FA Cup final in 2014, losing to Arsenal having led 2-0. The club have also broken their transfer record on five occasions under Allam’s stewardship.
Those who know Assem speak of a “kind and generous man” who, for a time, did genuinely cherish owning his local club. In a suite at his company HQ, he put up photos of himself standing before the home crowd, while another picture showed Bruce posing with Assem and his son after securing promotion. Assem would often go into the dressing room before games and he was popular with players.
Ehab stepped into the breach when his father became ill. One source close to the family says: “Ehab has been the full-time CEO for about six years now. He doesn’t really love football either but he loves data and subscribes to all the various data providers. He’s the sort of guy who will say Hull might have lost the game but they should have won it based on xG or entries into the attacking third. Ehab’s main passion, though, is polo. Assem’s favourite sport is squash — he used to sponsor the British Open.”
Not everyone resents the regime. Liam Rosenior, for example, was allowed time off to complete his coaching badges and the club funded those qualifications for the defender.
And again, it is true that Hull’s careful management contrasts favourably with that of many Championship clubs. Hull said in a statement: “The club, has throughout the period of the Allam family’s stewardship, always been run in a financially prudent manner. The club will always have to cut its cloth according to its means and by doing so, the future of the club is secured and ready for new challenges.”
In December 2010, Assem Allam rescued Hull City when the club was threatened by an imminent winding-up order from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and owed £17 million to banks. He loaned them £41 million immediately and sources familiar with the club’s accounts estimate that loans from his family’s businesses have reached just shy of £80 million.
At the same time, however, the family has, as is usual in such situations, charged four per cent interest on the loans. In net interest alone, Hull have paid £21.9 million since the 2011-12 season. Recent accounts suggest player sales have been used to lower the debt owed to the family and it now stands at around £42 million. Investment in the playing squad has drastically reduced. The club spent as much (£1.8 million) in the 2018-19 campaign on net interest repayments to their owners as on new players.
Remarkably, the club’s asking price, however, is, according to three separate sources, still more than £40 million.
Geoff Bielby, chair of the Hull City Supporters’ Trust, says: “I have been engaged with three or four sets of potential buyers now who have all become frustrated with the owners’ intransigence in asking for a valuation which is probably twice the market value currently.
“We do not own the ground, which is owned by Hull City Council. We have a small training ground in Cottingham, which we do own. But the players… we have had a managed decline of playing assets for four years now. The asking price factors in the loan the club owes to the owners and their business. This is interest-bearing, so it increases their income.
“The owner claimed infamously a year ago he has never taken a penny, not even a pound, out of the club but he is playing semantics. He doesn’t take money out of the club but the club pays his parent company interest and management consultant fees.
“It is true the wages to income ratio is very good. We are top of the league for that. They claim to be the best-run club in the EFL and financially, they are very prudently run. They are the shareholders. I put the statement where they say they are the best run club in the EFL together with their statement that the club is run for the shareholders. The club is just an asset within their portfolio of businesses. It is a cash cow.”
On Monday morning, following Hull’s unusual decision to publish The Athletic’s list of allegations and their response to it on their own club website, the local newspaper, the Hull Daily Mail, released a statement. They confirmed Hull had forbidden them from covering this past weekend’s fixture at home against Charlton.
Their statement read: “To be barred entry to the KCOM Stadium on the grounds of being negative, we believe, is not justified. We have always supported the club and wanted success from every game but we make no apologies for honest and frank analysis.”
This, however, is only the climax of seven years of tension. In March 2013, the club’s controlling company name was changed from Hull City Association Football Club (Tigers) Ltd to Hull City Tigers Ltd. Then in the August, Assem Allam declared his plan to change the club’s name from Hull City AFC to Hull Tigers, dropping “AFC” and 109 years of heritage.
The FA, under duress from the club’s supporters, who opposed the change, outlawed the move. Those who worked closely with the regime speculate the move may have been partially driven by a grudge the owner held against the council after Assem had an offer rejected to outright buy the stadium. As such, this theory says he subsequently decided the word ‘City’ should be removed from Hull and replaced by ‘Tigers’.
Supporters resisted fervently, organising the ‘City Till We Die’ protests and in December 2013, relations worsened when Assem said: “They can die as soon as they want, as long as they leave the club for the majority who just want to watch good football.”
Thompson was the club’s CEO during this period and eventually resigned in protest. He recalls: “It was a matter of principle to me that it was wrong. I decided I had to leave. But he was paying me and I was taking his money, so I had to do my job and not actively mitigate against him during that time.
“Hull is the team I support. It was heartbreaking to make the decision but when somebody is doing something that in principle you consider to be wrong, then how can you stand there and back that decision? The irony is, in that summer of 2013, we never used the term ‘Hull City’ in any kind of marketing collateral because we had decided that the tiger’s head was such a potent image that we went with it. In a marketing sense, we were depicting ourselves already with that tiger logo and imagery.
“But Assem’s determination was that we had to change the name. He is the chief and what he says, goes.”
The idea stemmed from a piece Assem had read in an industry magazine. Thompson says: “A friend of his from the university sent him a copy of the Harvard Business Review and it said that businesses with shorter names had higher stock market valuations. You also had the issue with Kingston-upon-Hull City Council. They had turned down his offer to purchase the stadium.
“There was twin-track thinking; on the one side, a shorter name made for a higher valuation and then the other side, ‘Hull City Council refused to let me buy the stadium, therefore I don’t like them, therefore why would I promote the city over Tigers?’ Assem is the only man who could tell you actually why he did it.”
Was it a quick decision? Thompson says: “We spoke for hours about it. We spent 90 per cent of one board meeting talking about it. My view was that if you would like to use tiger imagery in marketing, particularly overseas marketing, I was completely across that as a picture paints a thousand words. But whenever you talk about a club’s heritage or legacy, it is Hull City AFC. You cannot change that.
“When the penny dropped for me and I finally realised, it was talking to two boys who were studying sports marketing PhDs at the University of Hull. They asked me what I thought. So I turned it around and asked them what they thought. They said to me it made no sense strategically or commercially but, ‘Dr Allem is the chief and what the chief says, goes’.”
Since that moment, the ties between the owners and the fanbase have severely frayed. In 2016, it worsened when a new membership scheme removed concessionary ticket pricing for children and pensioners.
One source close to the family said: “Someone said to me… he couldn’t believe Ehab doesn’t realise changing these concessions is wrong. I said to him, ‘I don’t think you realise, Ehab simply does not care.’ He thinks it is the right thing and it doesn’t really matter if the fans are going to kick off or not. It is what he is going to do. This is a difference between being aware of things and being responsive to things.”
Concessions returned in 2019, amid the dwindling attendances, but large sections of supporters remain disgruntled.
Supporters’ Trust chair Bielby claims the club are refusing to work with his group so long as he remains at the helm. In October 2017, supporters threw tennis balls onto the pitch during a 3-2 loss against Nottingham Forest — a reference to a 1998 protest against then-owner David Lloyd, the former British tennis player and Davis Cup captain. Bielby’s relationship with the Allams soured after he, as a joke, he gave them two “Allam Out” scarves as gifts.
“I incurred their wrath around two years ago,” he says. “I was one of eight fans who sat on a supporters’ committee and when the tennis ball were sent onto the pitch in protest against Nottingham Forest, the owners came to the table and insisted it should not happen again. They charged me with talking to protestors and to halt protests. We somehow managed to do that for three months.
“In the December, I had the lack of judgment possibly, but after what we thought was the end of a reasonably successful meeting, a four-hour meeting presenting various options on restoring concessions to match-day tickets, we presented them with two ‘Allam Out’ scarves from the protesting groups who they had refused to allow into these meetings. It was a bit of a joke but it was just after that the owners told the board of the supporters’ trust they would have a closer relationship if I was no longer chairman.”
One former Hull player concludes: “The owners saved the club from going bust. But then they tried to change the name, and priced the club too high, were not willing to sell, which leaves a bitter taste in the fans’ mouths, really. We used to bump into them at the training ground. Have to say, as people, they were always pleasant enough.
“It is strange. I know they are in the Championship at the moment but during their ownership, they have got to an FA Cup final, two promotions to the Premier League, but there still doesn’t seem to be any sort of relationship with the fanbase.”
Resented by supporters, the Allams remain locked in a loveless marriage and a divorce does not yet seem imminent.
Assem Allam is said to have re-emerged as a leading voice over the past six months but son Ehab continues to run the show.
One source says: “Ehab decides what is going to be done and tells people to do it. There is no talking things over or thinking about things. It is what Ehab decides.”
Since 2016, various takeover attempts have come and gone. Paul Duffen, chairman between 2007 and 2010, was granted a mandate to bring investors to the table. Chien Lee, now the owner of Barnsley in England and Nice in France, took a look, as did a Hong-Kong based group. Duffen then came close in 2018 with a Saudi consortium who were considering a £100 million takeover, only for it to once again collapse.
“There have been other chancers and charlatans who came along,” reflects one industry source.
Why do they always fail? Some close to the takeover bids doubt whether Assem Allam truly wishes to sell the club, while the owners have also bristled at times when asked to provide further access to the club’s data room. In 2018, the Hull City Supporters’ Trust were involved in a consortium with the sports investment firm SportyCo, yet this also failed to materialise.
Well-placed sources familiar with the family insist the asking price remains above £40 million — in line with the debt still owed to the Allams — for a club on the brink of League One, without a stadium and stripped of its playing assets. “I would compare it to Wigan,” says one financial expert. “A recent Premier League (club) and FA Cup final history but down the bottom of the Championship. They (Wigan) went for less than £20 million (in 2018).”
In the meantime, supporters watch on from their sofas, fearing imminent relegation.
“It is a continuation of the past four years,” says Bielby. “It has been a steady, managed decline ever since. There has been a stream of very good players leaving the club or not taking up offers of contracts. Our owners are now well used to offering short and low-paid contracts and players vote with their feet. Not just players — we lost head coaches — many stating a lack of ambition.
“Nigel Adkins, he did a great job as manager here and chose to have a year out rather than renew a contract. He stated a lack of ambition. Marco Silva moved to Watford but refused to sign the contract he was offered at Hull. They have all chosen to leave. Even local lads like Max Clark and Josh Tymon, local Hull lads playing for their team, surrounded by their family, have gone.
“The owners decided to cash in on Bowen and Grosicki. For anyone for whom the penny was yet to drop, deadline day of the (January 2020) transfer window should have made it a crystal clear. It was a hammer blow to the mentality of the squad. We have long-term injuries, an inexperienced squad.
“The biggest frustration last week in losing Lichaj and Irvine is losing big club players, captain and vice-captain, what is going wrong? Maybe there is one reason: the owners.”