The vanishing Tiger - What’s in a name?

Hull City AFC The Tigers Logo
Friday, 21 March 2014 By Lydia Banerjee

What’s in a name? Rather a lot it would seem if the Hull City v Hull Tigers debate is anything to go by.  This month the FA Membership Committee recommended that The FA do not permit Hull City’s owner, Assem Allam, to change the playing name of the club to Hull Tigers.

The company behind Hull City has already changed its name to Hull City Tigers Limited (“the company”) but the decision over the playing name of the club is not theirs to make.

The process is managed by the FA rules and the committee structure provided by The FA. Standing Order 531 provides the powers and duties of the various Committees of Council. Within the remit of the Membership Committee2 is consideration of matters pertaining to Club names. The Membership Committee is tasked to report on such issues to the FA Council.

The FA Membership Committee recommendation is almost certain to be followed when The FA Council meet on 9 April 2014. Assem Allam and “the company” can make further representations in light of the written Committee recommendation to try to sway The FA Council; they are no doubt hoping that a positive vote in the season ticket holders’ ballot has some impact.

What are the rules in play?

Under the FA rules, rule 3 (l)

A Club competing in any one of The Premier League, The Football League, The Football Conference, the Southern Football League, the Isthmian League and the Northern Premier League shall not be permitted to change its playing name (i.e. the name under which the Club competes in a Competition), as recorded on Form “A”, save with the prior written permission of Council.

Any application for a change of playing name must be received by The Association before 1st April in any calendar year in order for it to be considered by Council for adoption in the following playing season. Council will use its absolute discretion in deciding whether to approve a change in a Club’s playing name.

So the decision is for the Council in its absolute discretion.

The Courts are routinely asked to adjudicate on the exercise of discretion by a party. The cases are clear that even where discretion is not expressly fettered it must still be exercised rationally and reasonably. Reasonableness is a question of whether the decision is one which a reasonable person or body could reach. Rationality implies principles of honesty, good faith and genuineness and the absence of perversity, arbitrariness and caprice (Socimer International Bank Ltd v Standard Bank Ltd (2008))3.

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Lydia Banerjee

Lydia Banerjee

Lydia is an active member of the Littleton Chambers Sports law group. In line with the broader chambers specialisms Lydia’s core areas of practice are commercial law and employment law.  Lydia’s commercial practice encompasses disputes including contractual interpretation, professional negligence and directors’ duties.  Lydia’s employment work has a particular focus on disability discrimination but also incorporates all areas of tribunal disputes and high court action in relation to bonuses and restrictive covenants.

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