28 October 2009 ~ Last autumn Hull City beat Arsenal at the Emirates to go fourth in the Premier League. From the outside it looked the greatest time to be a Tigers fan, but the rumbles of discontent were already circulating around the KC Stadium. For many lifelong fans going to football had changed and may never be the same again. The slogan of Hull's promotion season was "dare to dream" but reality began to bite very quickly. As soon as the final whistle went at the play-off final supporters who had decided to stay at home and watch the game on Sky decided now may be a good time to buy a season ticket for the first time.
A ridiculous queue formed quickly outside the ground. Some of the new army of fans were seen wearing Liverpool and Manchester United shirts. One of the overnight queuers summed up the attitude of the glory supporters perfectly when asked by BBC Radio Humberside: "So, what are you looking forward to seeing next season?" He replied, with little thought: "I can't wait to see Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in action."
Seeing your club's popularity grow should be a good thing. The problem is that the new fans have hopelessly unrealistic expectations. For most, City only entered their consciousness when Dean Windass powered home the winner in the play-off final against Bristol City, after a season where the team won far more games than they lost. As a result they expect the side to win every week and if they don't the manager gets the blame and has to go.
Longer-term fans have better memories and you will hear few true supporters calling for Phil Brown's head. Were it not for Brown the club would have certainly been relegated from the Championship in 2007. Then by the end of his first full season he'd rebuilt the team and achieved promotion to the top tier for the first time in the club's history. Of course, when the inevitable happens and City's tenure among the elite expires, these new fans are the ones most likely to not renew their tickets and go back to their armchairs to watch Man Utd rather than trek to watch a rainy Tuesday evening match against Blackpool.
Sadly, the club doesn't share this concern. For the first time demand outstripped supply and so the club sold the rest of their season tickets to the first people who turned up. Unprecedented sales left anyone else wanting a match ticket having to risk their luck on the phone lines before every game. The only other alternative was their new membership scheme. To say this scheme is penalising loyal fans is putting it mildly. The rules are if you had a customer reference number and had attended five games during the promotion season you could purchase a membership. This entitled you to buy tickets for ten matches, including either the Liverpool or Man Utd game and one of the Chelsea or Arsenal matches. While this doesn’t sound too unfair on the surface, the cost of membership (which has no other benefits) comes in at £40 per season. For that price, the supporters should at least get to go to all the "big games".
By prior standards Hull fans are now supporting a "big club", which many didn't choose to. Hull people who wanted to support a top-tier club in the 1980s or 1990s mostly went off and supported Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds, Man Utd or Liverpool. Now those who didn't really want to support a Premier League team suddenly do. In the big league everyone knows your team and unfortunately that also means everyone knows when they lose 5-0 too. Chris Donkin