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Hull City’s U.S. Charm Offensive Will Pay Dividends

EPL Talk’s ex-pat and Anglophile readers familiar with the classic British sitcom Only Fools and Horses will likely remember the program’s 1985 Christmas special, “To Hull and Back,” in which Del Boy and Rodney unwittingly end up in the northern English city of Hull on their way to picking up smuggled diamonds in Holland.  When it dawns on Del Boy that he’s ended up in Humberside, though, he angrily demands that his brother rush him back to London as “otherwise I’ll be saying ‘Hey-up’ and breeding whippets before I’m very much older.”

Now, Yorkshire accents, sighthound-breeding and shipping ports as far as the eye can see are all well and good, but OFAH’s depiction of Hull doesn’t give the impression that there’s much else going on in the town.  It’s a picture that many North American soccer fans following the English game probably presumed out of ignorance up until Dean Windass’ volley in last season’s Coca-Cola Championship promotion play-off final against Bristol City brought England’s largest city previously without having ever tasted top-flight football into the Premier League.

Now that Hull City A.F.C. is finally in the limelight, however, the Tigers are milking it for all its worth, and that apparently includes making inroads on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Following the lead of Oldham Athletic chairman Simon Blitz, Hull have launched a publicity campaign in North America in an apparent bid to build the Tigers’ name recognition abroad and, with any luck, also bring in potential new supporters.  The bulk of the campaign so far seems to be emanating from Los Angeles, where, in recent days, both manager Phil Brown and club chairman Paul Duffen have been interviewed at length on World Soccer Daily, a popular caller-driven satellite radio program that is also downloaded by approximately 290,000 listeners worldwide each weekday.

Bringing Brown and Duffen onto the show has been a major coup for WSD – which in recent months has been unveiling increasingly high-profile regular guests such as Robbie Earle, Tim Vickery and Andy Brassell – but it also stands to pay dividends for Hull City, a club vying for fans’ attention on two fronts: Not just abroad, but also even in its own stadium.

In terms of support, the Tigers face the same problem that Premier League rivals Wigan Athletic have been made to endure: They play in a city that is crazy about rugby league.  It is perhaps not such a big surprise, given that rugby league originated in Yorkshire, but have fun telling that to Hull City, who share the Kingston Communications Stadium with Hull F.C., the city’s Super League rugby side.  Both the Tigers and Latics play in multi-purpose stadia, which theoretically keep the football teams on par with their rugby league counterparts where facilities are concerned, but when it’s butts in seats that means more to the clubs financially – which is where the football clubs are getting the short end of the stick – it’s hard to blame either for branching out to recruit new supporters wherever they can.

Bearing that in mind, what Hull City have done in building bridges over the Pennines, across the Atlantic and into North America is perhaps as wise a PR move as we have seen from any Premier League side in a good while, and they stand to add to their fan base because of it. They probably would have had a little more luck with the campaign had they launched it earlier in the season when their place in the Premiership table indicated more feast than (the current) famine, but nevertheless, given the club’s apparent enthusiasm to embrace the North American market, new fans to the game on this side of the pond could do much worse than to hop onto the black and amber bandwagon.

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  1. Old Yorkey in New York

    February 1, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Hull FC the rugby league team has traditionally enjoyed bigger attendances than the struggling soccer team during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. However, the soccer team has enjoyed slightly bigger gates since both teams moved to the KC Stadium. Example HCAFC average 2007/8 – 18000. Hull FC average 2007 – 15000.

  2. Mark

    February 1, 2009 at 6:45 am

    City averaged 19,000 in the bottom division, division 4. Which was more than the 2 rugby clubs got added together that season.
    Now in the top flight City are averaging 24,800. Last season the two rugby clubs got 21,000 dded together, 13,000 FC and 8,000 rovers. Rugby city? don't make me laugh. Not to mention Hull sunday league is the biggest in the country and there are 70 divisions of amateur football on a weekend comaped to 1 of rugby league.

  3. Matt

    January 31, 2009 at 4:57 am

    It's not a myth, I live in Hull and it is a rugby town by tradition, just because the KC is full for a first season in the top flight doesnt mean its not a rugby town, it is. 2 rugby teams that completely divide the city.

  4. Matt

    January 31, 2009 at 4:55 am

    You do realise Hull isnt in Humberside dont you?

  5. Steve

    January 31, 2009 at 3:23 am

    Whatever the game the fact that the City of Hull, in England that is as some people still confuse us with Hull in Canada, is getting some positives for a change due to the success of Hull City AFC.
    We did a couple of first last year, went to Wembley and actually won something there which in themselves was a momentous occasion for the City.

    There are those who deride our city and the football team, some of them even local people, but at this moment in time Hull City has brought the City of Hull a lot of international recognition which hasn't happened before, long may it continue.

  6. rich

    January 30, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Bill, the two rugby teams are Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull F.C.

    The football club is Hull City AFC, or just 'City' for short.

    If you mentioned Hull City F.C. in the town centre then the locals would assume you were referring to the football team. The rugby team has no 'City' in the name.

    They're referred to as 'rovers' or 'KR' for HKR and Hull or F.C. for HFC.

    Alternatively you could use 'the robins' for HKR, the 'earlie birds' for HFC.

    Hull City AFC are nicknamed 'the tigers'.

    I guess it's a little confusing, but 'city' or 'the tigers' or plain old 'Hull City' will do.

  7. Richard

    January 30, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Football is getting the thin end of the wedge in Hull eh?

    Can you please tell me why all seats in the stadium are sold out for Football yet under half-full for Rugby?

    Hull is a much bigger place than Wigan. Many cities the size of Hull have more than one football team.

    I'm guessing the author of this article hasn't been to Hull. The 2 top-flight rugby league teams together don't draw the support of the football team. We may be looking to expand our fan-base and develop the commercial side of things, but as far as the stadium and local support is concerned, we're at capacity. Too many bums for available seats in-fact.

  8. Johnny Yen

    January 30, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Sorry guys, but the “Hull is a rugby town” thing is a bit of a myth. Every league game this year has been a sell-out (or as near as possible). There's no need to get more bums on seats in the stadium – all the seats are full.

  9. Bill Turianski

    January 30, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Type your comment here.Rob Kaye: Hull City FC are a rugby team; Hull City AFC are the football team.

  10. Mark

    January 30, 2009 at 11:18 am far off the mark..nice to know you take an interest but where does this crazy story come from ???…The city of Hull is totally different to wigan which is a small town..the City of Kingston upon Hull is football crazy we sell out every week with crowds the rugby teams could only dream of..when England play every pub is full…contrast that with the recent rugby world cup!…nobody even knew it was in the nicest possible way..''do keep up!'' 🙂

  11. TigerNoz

    January 30, 2009 at 8:50 am

    A clear message for all 'our cousins' on the other side of the Pond, keep a close eye on The Tigers, the really are a team going places, full of ambition, determined to establish ourselves in the Premier League and beyond. UP THE TIGERS!!!

  12. Simon Strypz

    January 30, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Th Tigernation grows! Great to see. HELLO AMERICA!!!!!!

  13. rob kaye

    January 30, 2009 at 6:37 am

    I'm a Hull City supporter that has recently moved back to England following 15 years in the US of A. It's great to see that we are getting more attention and the recent successes make up for over 40 years of supporting an under-achieving team.

    I just want to clear up this football v rugby thing. Its true that Hull's rugby teams are well supported – in rugby terms – but Hull City FC pull in gates that exceed those of the two professional RL teams added together.

    This season, every home game has been a complete sell out. We could easily sell more and stadium expansion is being discussed.

    so, poor relations? not really.

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