Hull City started out in life as Hull Comets and evolved into Hull City, when they turned professional in 1904 at the time when rugby dominated the town. The timing of its formation did not allow the club sufficient time to apply for membership of the Football League, so its first season in existence consisted of playing friendly games against clubs from the North of the country as well as the East Midlands.
These were played at the Boulevard, home of Hull RFC. However soon after rugby league’s governing body decreed that no admission could be charged for admission by the football club so City’s footballers started to use The Circle, home of Hull Cricket Club on Anlaby Road. City only stayed a short time before moving on to an adjacent proper football pitch. The club managed to develop this incredibly cramped enclosure into a venue that attracted a record 32,930 crowd for the sixth round stage of the FA Cup in March 1930.
Throughout this time, City had been intending to move elsewhere, due to the proposed railway developments at the instigation of the owners, the Railway Company. They therefore had purchased land a few hundreds yards south on Anlaby Road with the intention of building Boothferry Park. It was originally part of the estate used as a golf course by the Hull Golf Club prior to its removal to Kirkella in 1924 and the deal was financed thanks to a loan of £3,000 from the Football Association. However, probably restricted due to the lack of money, coupled with the absence of the expected railway improvements, progress was slow to say the least. By the time of the war hostilities in 1939 Hull City were still playing at Anlaby Road! When their lease ran out in 1943, Hull City moved back to The Boulevard for the 1944-45 season….
Then there followed a period when the club’s very existence was in doubt – and not for the first (or last) time. Once again The Boulevard became a no-go area and although the war was coming to an end creating a new football ground was hardly likely to be given priority. Hull City had no alternative but to temporarily close down. The enforced lay-off lasted only one year, a year which actually enabled the club to finally develop Boothferry Park, which would be their home from 1946 until December 2002 when a move was made to the 25,000 capacity Kingston Communications Stadium, virtually on the same spot as the former Anlaby Road ground!.
It is not strictly true to say that Hull City wore amber and black colours from the start. A team photograph from the very first game, a friendly against Notts County on 1 September 1904, showed the players wearing all white shirts, black shorts and black socks with a white top. However, it was not long before the famous amber and black colours and the ‘Tigers’ nickname was adopted.
There is no record of the first throat to emit the cry ‘Now, the Tigers!’ nor the precise occasion on which it happened. The first reference in print to ‘The Tigers’ appears in the Hull Daily Mail in March 1905. Before that date the nearest to a nickname was the ‘Citizens’, popularly shortened to the ‘Cits’. As both the city’s Rugby League teams had nicknames relating to the animal kingdom, the Daily Mail reporter suggested the football club should follow suit. With plenty of exposure in the local newspaper columns, the nickname soon caught on.
When football resumed after the Second World War, Hull City attempted to break from the past by introducing new colours of orange shirts with a blue trim, bearing the civic crest of three crowns. White shorts and orange and blue socks completed the new image. Unfortunately, the Board of Trade refused to release the necessary dyes, so the club had to be satisfied with pale blue shirts and white shorts. The old colours were still used for big matches and colour clashes though, and eventually the directors had to succumb to public demand and four decades of tradition the following summer. They compromised with an amber shirt emblazoned with a tigers head motif and black shorts.
Variations of an amber and black design have been used ever since. From 1975/76 to 1977/78, a white collar and white shorts and socks accompanied the amber and black striped shirt. During most of the 1980s, a basic amber shirt and black shorts design was enhanced by a variety of red additions most memorably the red socks worn during the 1982/83 promotion season. Chairman Don Robinson believed red signified the blood his players were prepared to spill in the name of the club. Red was also the colour of Scarborough FC – his birthplace and former club.
Of further note is the design used in the early Nineties when the Tigers’ shirts were exactly that – incorporating a design of tiger stripes.
It wasn’t ‘just another badge’ that was worn on the shirts just after World War II. ‘Azure, three ducal coronets in pale or’ do of right belong and appertain to the corporation of the Town and bounty of the Town of Kingston-upon-Hull as allowed at the heralds visitation of Yorkshire in the years 1612 and 1665-6. Despite the fancy words however the actual origins of the arms are not known. It has been speculated that the arms could have been derived from the device of a local company of mediaeval merchant adventurers who are said to have adopted three crowns as their company’s arms, likening themselves to the three Kings of the East who were also merchants. It is interesting to note that the same motif appears in the arms of Cologne, with which continental town Hull merchants did once considerably trade in fine line and cloth.
It is more likely that the crowns were adopted in token of the royal founder Edward I, who, seeing its value as a port, took over the town of Wykeham-upon-Hull from the Monks of Meaux and gave it a charter, so that thereafter it was called the King’s Town. This explanation is supported by the fact that during the reign of Edward I it was agreed at a conference held at Bruges that all merchant ships should fly the flag of their homeports and from which time the ships of Hull displayed a flag resembling the present arms.
Over the years a variety of tigers’ heads have been used in allusion to the club colours and nickname. This led to amount of confusion, making for problems in marketing and merchandising. In March 1999 it was decided a new official crest should be designed. This was done by James Hinchliffe – a graphic design student at Leeds University and son of one of the club’s former presidents. This badge features a new-look tiger’s head, the Humber Bridge and the three crowns from the civic crest. However, Hull City have reverted to yet another tiger coinciding with the move to the KC.
And a final anecdote: The Hungarian football team Vasas, they were the greatest of their time. Every season’s beginning for 25 years they visited a different country to play that country’s three top teams and had never been defeated. They visited England to play Tottenham Hotspur, Sheffield Wednesday and Wolverhampton Wanderers, at that time they were England’s greatest clubs. Vasas put seven past Tottenham, six past Wednesday and Wolves, who up to that time had never lost to a continental team and had a long injury list, withdrew. Hull City, bottom of Division Two at the time, said, “We’ll take the fixture”. The Vasas officials visited the magnificent Boothferry Park and said, “the game is on”. The ground attracted 13,889 for the occasion and witnessed an astonishing 3-1 victory to the Tigers. That year Hull City’s Christmas card was a cartoon of a smiling Tiger with its paw on a bone marked “Vasas”.