What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title.
That may be fine for roses and star-crossed lovers but for our football clubs their names are a key part of their identity and heritage and once again we see a situation arising where these fundamental articles are under threat.
One of the most controversial moments in recent football history occurred back in 2004 when the Football Association gave permission for Wimbledon FC to change its name to “Milton Keynes Dons FC” after previously being granted leave to move the club 80+ miles from its historic home to Milton Keynes. And just like that Wimbledon FC was dead, its proud history erased, its existence no more.
A decision criticised by many supporters and heavily protested, US style franchising had come to the beautiful game and there was nothing pretty about it.
In the summer of 2002 after the initial decision was made to allow the move to Milton Keynes and despite an independent commission ruling that their actions “would not be in the wider interests of football” a group of fans formed the phoenix club AFC Wimbledon, starting its journey in the Combined Counties League.
Sixteen years later AFC Wimbledon sit in the English Football League Division One having surpassed MK and firmly re-established their position in football history.
In 2013 another historic club’s identity and heritage came under threat. Hull City AFC owner Assam Allam lodged a request to change the club’s name to ‘Hull Tigers’ for ‘marketing purposes’. When faced with a furious backlash from supporters he was famously quoted as saying that fans who chanted ‘City Till I Die’ could ‘die when they want’.
With the proposal eventually being rejected by the FA Council, the club’s 110-year-old name remained, and the decision met the approval of the supporters groups who fought tirelessly for the importance of the recognition of the club’s historic title.
At the time we at Supporters Direct ‘welcomed’ the decision but added: ‘The FA must create a democratic, transparent process for consultation in matters such as these, and one that ensures that supporters have the final say on such matters through a binding vote.’
Fast forward to now.
North Ferriby United AFC were founded in 1934 and competed in the East Riding Church League. Defeating AFC Fylde in the National League North Playoff Final, the club reached the highest level in its history with promotion to the National League in 2016 after the previous season saw them run out as shock victors of the FA Trophy, beating a much-fancied Wrexham AFC on penalties.
After a series of recent relegations, the club now sits in the Northern Premier League Premier Division in the seventh tier of English Football.
A real community football club at the heart of the village of North Ferriby, the club now faces its toughest challenge as owners Carl and Terry Chadwick claim the club is ‘unsustainable’, have submitted applications to change the name of the club to ‘East Hull FC’ and relocate it from its Grange Lane ground some eleven miles away to Dunswell Park. Incidentally, Dunswell park is currently owned by former North Ferriby United owner and close friend and associate of the Chadwick’s, Jamie Waltham.
If these proposals are accepted by the FA and the Northern Premier League, North Ferriby United AFC will cease to exist. Its name erased, its heritage forgotten and its contributions to the local and national football story consigned to the annuls of history.
The village of North Ferriby may only have a population of just under 4000 but the club forms an integral hub for those residents, providing a vibrant youth section which supports over 200 children who, without the club, would lose the opportunity to participate in football regularly.
There is however an opportunity for input for supporters with the FA leading a consultation on the change of name to be considered by the FA Council in 2019 with the Northern Premier League considering the proposed relocation separately.
Since the Hull City debacle, the FA have changed the process and sought to actively consult stakeholders like the fans, Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation whenever there is a proposed change of name at a club. We here at SD are working closely with the North Ferriby supporters to ensure their voices are heard by those making the decisions and everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the consultation process.
To start off with, North Ferriby supporters have set up a petition on change.org to show the club’s value and standing in the game and are calling on all football fans to sign and share in order to raise the profile of this situation. As shown with the cases at Wimbledon FC and Hull City, it could happen to any club, at any level, at any time.
In addition to the petition, the fans will be conducting a separate survey of the North Ferriby United supporter base who attend matches as well as engaging with local stakeholders and groups potentially most directly affected by these proposals.
To answer the North Ferriby United supporters call to action from the football family just follow the link to the survey HERE sign and share on social media. It takes less than five minutes and could make a real difference to the future of their club. We can't let this situation turn into another Shakespearean tragedy.