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Outside the Box: Hull's benefactor is moved to help tragic clubs in homeland


Hull may feature regularly in polls about the worst place to live in Britain but Assem Allam, who became chairman of Hull City 15 months ago, will not have a word said against it.

Allam fled from his native Egypt in 1968, studied economics at Hull University and became an entrepreneur and local philanthropist. He has given money to Hull Kingston Rovers (£1m) and the Hull Truck Theatre Company, and took over sponsorship of the British Open Squash Championship, which will move from London's O2 Arena to Hull next year.

Now he is arranging for the Tigers, who are chasing a play-off place in the Championship after Nick Barmby was appointed manager, to play a fundraising friendly against Al-Ahly to help families of the 74 people killed after the match between the Egyptian club and Al-Masry in Port Said last month.

Hull wore black armbands at their first game after the tragedy and Al-Ahly were invited over after their president rang Allam to thank him for his condolences. Fifa have also donated $250,000 (£159,000).

Wide-ranging ramifications

There must have been many a club director hearing about Rangers players being asked to accept wage cuts of up to 75 per cent who thought: "We'd like to do that."

But Scottish football is different in that the controversial "football creditors rule" does not exist there. In England a club becoming insolvent must pay players and other clubs first before local businesses or the taxman. HMRC claim to have lost "millions at the very least" because of it and brought a High Court case to have the rule outlawed last November, in which judgment is expected shortly.

Portsmouth's administrator Trevor Birch says the Revenue are "gunning for football clubs", although even the Football League's chairman Greg Clarke has admitted the rule is not morally defensible. Supporters of it say the Rangers case shows how smaller clubs face losses on unpaid transfers and gate receipts – believed to be as much as £800,000 in the case of one Scottish club.

Meanwhile Football League clubs have reduced total tax arrears from almost £10m to under £250,000. If they are not up to date with accounts and returns, they now face a transfer embargo, as happened to Coventry and Birmingham last week.

Second home dereliction

The way that fixtures work, up to a dozen teams suddenly find themselves having two successive games either at home or away, which is what happened in the Premier League over the past month.

Yet only half of those given successive home matches – Manchester City, Stoke and West Bromwich – took advantage by winning both, while Bolton were the only ones who lost both away games.

To be fair to Owen Coyle's strugglers, Chelsea and City were not ideal destinations. Manchester United kept pace with City by being the only team to win two away games, at Norwich and Tottenham.

Becks or beach volleyball?

Interview boards for jobs in BBC Sport have traditionally contained a tricky question about priorities; choosing, for instance as a radio producer might have to, between broadcasting commentary on an FA Cup quarter-final or a Six Nations decider.

This summer's Olympics schedule will offer similar choices for real, on both radio and TV. Pity those producers on the middle Saturday, 4 August, when the first day of athletics clashes with the final swimming events and a little matter of the four football quarter-finals, in which Stuart Pearce's boys will be expected to feature. Not to mention the women's tennis final and some highly photogenic beach volleyball.

"Would the Beeb be able to resist putting Beckham and Co on BBC1 and relegating some "real" Olympic sport to the red button?" asks a sceptical reader.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; www.twitter.com/@stevetongue