The Guildhall’s door is open for would-be owners of Hull City but so far no-one has come calling.
While a takeover deal hinges on a handshake and an exchange of signatures between the Allams and a potential buyer, the city council has a key part to play in the proceedings.
With the club still up for sale after recent talks hit a deadlock, Angus Young looks at the issues facing the council.
The KCOM Stadium
Built and funded by the council, the stadium and how it operates in a post-Allam era will be fundamental to any takeover deal getting across the line.
From the start, the authority insisted the venue and the nearby indoor arena built at the same time should not be run from the Guildhall.
Tradition suggests any new owner would also take over Superstadium Management Company Ltd (SMC), assuming it forms part of the deal to buy the club.
A decision to sell the SMC rests with the Allams but, as in previous takeovers, the council would want to seek reassurances from a new leaseholder that it has the necessary finances to run the SMC as a going concern.
A more complicated scenario would be if the Tigers’ new owner didn’t fancy taking on the SMC and the Allams relinquished the lease.
The ball would then be firmly back in the council’s court.
One option could see the council taking over the lease, but a more likely move would be handing it to a new operator after a tendering process.
Hull City Council news
Look no further than the recently-opened Bonus Arena in the city centre as an example of another council-funded complex being run by an independent company with a proven track record in operating similar venues across the country.
A real cat among the pigeons would be if a new owner wanted to buy the stadium.
Acquiring the stadium was once mooted by the Allams but that ambition never got beyond an initial meeting with the council, which famously ended with both parties never really seeing eye to eye again.
The council’s current policy is to maintain ownership of the KCOM but in these cash-strapped times for local government, a lucrative offer might change a few minds in the corridors of power in Alfred Gelder Street.
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While all the current talk is about Hull City, deputy council leader Daren Hale’s comments this week included a reminder that Hull FC are still an integral part of the equation at the KCOM.
It’s worth recalling that both City and FC were effectively rescued from seriously choppy financial waters when the council used nearly half of the windfall from its first KC shares sell-off to splash the cash for the new £46m stadium development next to West Park.
The council even ended up buying Hull FC’s old Boulevard ground to help pave the way for the club’s short move across Anlaby Road.
The stadium itself was also purpose-built to accommodate both football and rugby, not just for the clubs but for international fixtures too.
Cllr Hale made it clear the council would seek a firm commitment from any new SMC owner to ensure the continued presence of the Airlie Birds at the KCOM.
He also revealed the council was in regular touch with Hull FC owner Adam Pearson to that end.
The Airco Arena
Originally intended as an integral part of the whole community stadium concept, the indoor spots venue just a goal kick away from the KCOM is now a very different kettle of fish.
Once home to a mix of grassroots community clubs playing sports ranging from gymnastics and trampolining to basketball and boxing along with regular international-standard competitions, the arena is now effectively a five-a-side venue thanks to the controversial decision by the Allams to evict the clubs and install a 3G plastic playing surface.
That move prompted an ultimately unsuccessful legal challenge by the council, who claimed the SMC had breached its lease.
Any new leaseholder might expect some pressure from the Guildhall to rip up the 3G and revert the building’s use back to what it once was.
Like new neighbours of a medieval church complaining about the sound of its bells, any new faces in Hull City’s boardroom might not like having Hull Fair on their doorstep every October.
But the annual council-run extravaganza of hair-raising rides and candy floss has been based in Walton Street since 1888 and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere else soon.
The council seems committed to the using the site as a fairground for the foreseeable future even if it’s only there for three weeks of the year.
The site occupied by Hull Fair is just one part of a larger jigsaw of land around the KCOM and all of it is under council ownership.
In his days as SMC chairman, Adam Pearson touted a possible hotel and casino development on land to the south of the stadium amid talks with an American operator but the idea never got off the ground.
The Allams’ vision of a Sports Viillage next to the stadium bit the dust when relations with the council soured shortly after their takeover of City and the SMC.
In the event of City’s new owners having deep pockets and big ambitions, councillors would probably draw a red line around West Park and the fairground but other opportunities are still there and the authority’s own current planning policies for the area are geared towards supporting suitable development.
Both the south stand car park and the large triangle of scrubland bordered by railway lines between the stadium and Londesborough Street are potential development sites.
The council also owns four nearby sites on Anlaby Road, including the derelict former Premiere bar directly opposite.
While some might argue the Tigers were punching above their weight in the Premier League, success on the field both in football and rugby is a key part of the council’s vision for Hull as a vibrant, attractive place to invest in.
Being in the Premier League undoubtedly put Hull on the international sporting map and many at the Guildhall hope a return to those heady days combined with more silverware for Hull FC can be achieved under whoever ultimately takes over at the KCOM.
Timeline of Paul Duffen and Hull City
Duffen, alongside Martin Walker and Russell Bartlett revealed as a consortium set up to takeover Hull City from then-chairman Adam Pearson. Duffen takes over Pearson’s role and was welcomed to the club with open arms. It was described as an “exciting period for the club.” The took over the club for a reported £13 million.
During his first year as Chairman, under the management of Phil Brown, the team finishes third in the Championship, equalling their highest-ever finish. They went on to make their first appearance at Wembley, defeating Bristol City 1-0 to win promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.
Duffen has a driving ban overturned at Hull Crown Court so he could use his car during the summer transfer window to sign players
After a disappointing summer transfer window, results got worse for the club and Duffen resigns from his position taking full responsibility for the poor period. However, he later admitted there were disagreements in his working relationship with Bartlett, but defended his role at the club and the financial position which he left it in.
Hull City says it was taking legal action against Duffen for his alleged wrongdoing. He still maintained this was in response to action initiated by him against the club for non-payment of monies he was owed following his resignation.
Hull City announces a settlement is reached bringing an end to all disputes between parties.
Adam Pearson criticises Duffen in the club’s matchday programme notes, stating Duffen ‘spent money he didn’t have whilst in charge of the Tigers.’
“In my personal opinion the decisions made by Mr Duffen at that point were extremely short-sighted,” he wrote.
Assem and Ehab Allam enter negotiations with Bartlett to take over.
A deal was finalised in December, with the club officially being sold for £1, while the new owners committed to pay off the club’s substantial debt and reinvest.
Duffen announced as Chairman of Newsdesk Media, a publishing firm specialising in strategic reviews and annual and centenary books.
After seeing attempts to change the name of the club to Hull Tigers, the Allam family officially placed the club on the market.
Their relationship with the fans deteriorated at an alarming rate. A number of high-profile protests have since taken place as supporters voiced their frustration with the owners.
Duffen once again linked to Hull City
Paul Duffen is pictured with Chien Lee, who had been linked with a takeover.
However, a sale never materialised. Instead, Lee opted to invest in Barnsley and completed a take over of the club in December 2017
Rumours circulate that Paul Duffen is leading a consortium to buy Hull City.
Backing by money from Saudi Arabia, the former City chairman is believed to be close to completing a deal that would see him return to the club.
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