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The Club, The Fans & The Brand – Leading Sports Solicitor On Perils Of Renaming A Football Club

8 years ago

Not surprisingly, Hull City Fans have been ecstatic with news of the recommendation of the FA Membership Committee to veto Hull City’s proposed change of playing name to “Hull Tigers”.

Hull City’s current owner, Assem Allam, had looked to change the name in a bid to make the club, in his opinion, more attractive to worldwide commercial partners.

Thomas Barnard, sports specialist solictor at leading law firm Thomas Eggar LLP, comments:

“With the growing market in naming rights representing a lucrative source of income for teams, it was inevitable that a club would soon look to exploit its playing name to its commercial advantage.  However, and unlike stadium names and shirt sponsorship deals, the FA Rules make it difficult for teams to change their names.  Even a relatively innocuous change from “City” to “Tigers” (rather than to “Hull City Cash Converters” the club’s shirt sponsor, for example), is likely to be met with resistance. 

“Those in support of Hull’s proposed name change have branded the FA’s decision as inconsistent, pointing, for example, to Cardiff City’s change of colours (from blue to red in 2012) for commercial reasons.  However, unlike a change in name, a change in kit design is not regulated by the FA (provided that certain conditions are met).

“Clubs and owners need to think carefully as to how they will look to exploit the goodwill associated with their brands in the modern era.  Such considerations need to take account not just of the FA Rules, but also of the club’s image, the perception of investors and commercial partner and, perhaps most of all, the fans.”

Thankfully this is a line drawn in the sand and we’ll never fear something as horrendous as ‘Newcastle Sports Direct United’…though never say never.


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