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Hull City

Hull City Disabled Ticket Fiasco: What I Told The Press

My Dad took me to my first Hull City match in 1975, and like any small boy I was hooked. Dad and me continued the Saturday ritual until he passed away in 2010 having witnessed the dream come true with the Tigers 2008 promotion to the top flight of English football for the first time after 104 years of trying. This father/ son scenario is replicated up and down the nation and I know had my Dad felt, when I took my son Conor to his first game in 2008 at home to West Brom. 

Conor’s introduction to the Tiger Nation was very different to mine.  City were a Club going places, knocking on the door of the Premier League, financially sound and playing in a state of the art new stadium just up the road from our ramshackle former home, Boothferry Park. 

But the biggest difference was that we were there in no small part to the largesse of Hull City’s owner Adam Pearson. Why? Because in 2004 I was struck down with the potentially deadly condition Cerebella Ataxia. The disease sees the auto immune system turned on its head. Instead of anti bodies protecting the body from the everyday germs, they turn on the sufferer causing brain degeneration, destroying balance and coordination, the eyesight is damaged, chronic and painful arthritis results and in addition diabetes is brought on. 

My comfortable middle class life resulting from my career in teaching was at an end. I am reliant on getting about in a wheelchair and my wife can now only work part time due to having to care for me. My life has been wrecked. I travel to London every six weeks to spend five days on a plasma exchange machine just to maintain my condition, I will never recover. 

I am lucky. I have a loving wife and family, good friends and one constant throughout my life has been Hull City. There have been plenty of times when I have had cause to curse my Dad with saddling me with the Tigers! Numerous relegations, crippling financial crises, a decaying, an embarrassing stadium and whenever we developed a quality player he was sold on. Stuart Pearson, Big Billy Whitehurst, Garry Parker, Dean Windass all exited City for bigger Clubs. Then there were the ones we missed. Nick Barmby and Paul Robinson were local lads who went on to play for England. 

But the good times made it all worthwhile. Two successive promotions under Peter Taylor were crowned with promotion to the Premier League with Phil Brown at the helm. After eight games in the autumn of 2008, City were third in the Premier League having vanquished Arsenal and Spurs amongst others. Heady days. But the bubble burst in spectacular style as the Tigers were relegated from the top flight in 2010 having only won six games all season. 

I took a full part in all this because Hull City AFC, and Adam Pearson in particular stuck by me in my time of need. Nothing was too much trouble. The Club found me and my nest mate Peter Crawford who has the dubious privilege of pushing me around the place, a place in the wheelchair balcony giving us a panoramic view of the game. When Conor was old enough the Club made sure he could sit with us, but most of all the discount made it viable for us to keep going to games. 

Apart from the obvious physical suffering, the emotional side of chronic illness can be hard to manage. Every husband wants to provide the best for his family and the financial loss of chronic disability is a lot to take. Anyone who believes that living on benefits is one big holiday should try it for a month. They would be shocked at the privations encountered.   

Mr. Pearson in common with many Club chairman, recognised this and the cost of attending games for me was set at £140 a season. A total lifeline. 

The Allam family took over the Club in 2010. I have no opinion on how they choose to run the Club. I may not like the fact that manager Nick Barmby was shown the door along with Adam Pearson after a media spat concerning transfer funds. All I care about is watching my team giving their best and playing good football. The boardroom politics bore me rigid. 

However when the Club took the decision to hike my season ticket by £300 (over 200%) in one fell swoop, then I decided the time had come to take action. Targeting a handful of your most vulnerable supporters to me seems a cruel act and maybe this reflects the values of the men at the top. I can’t say for sure. But when the self confessed millionaires at the top of the Club received a tax cut in the recent budget, and then chose to hit disabled supporters in this way, you have to wonder. 

I would welcome a face-to-face meeting with the Allams and their representatives so we can sort out this mess fan to fan. My petition athttp://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-hull-city-disabled-season-ticket-hike.html shows the depth of feeling and the Allams would do well to take notice. With no fans there is no Club.

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About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.

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