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INTERVIEW: “Name change will widen our appeal” – Whitehawk F.C. Chairman John Summers

Whitehawk FC has had significant press coverage recently due to the club’s attempt to change it’s name. I spoke to the chairman, John Summers, to find out more about the proposal and the difficulties the club has faced in pursuing this action.

Hello! So Mr. Summers, the club had entered discussions with the F.A to change the name Whitehawk FC to Brighton city FC, this led to many Whitehawk fans criticising the proposals on social media and subsequently it appears the name change to Brighton City FC is no longer going ahead, are their still plans of a name change though?

“Well the club had a full mandate from the members of the club that supported a name change and supported the efforts to widen the club’s appeal and provide sustainability. The problem was the F.A had moved the deadline for submitting an application, the F.A. didn’t communicate what the new deadline was to us for submitting a new name and when I discovered when the new deadline was it only left me with a single day to fully discuss with the fans the name change and explain to them why we want to do it. So yes we still want to pursue a name change but we want the fans’ support in doing so, but it is the case that the name change won’t happen now for at least another season.”

Why is a name change so important?

“We believe a name change will widen our appeal and if we keep with the current sponsorship that we have in place then we need to grow the fan base in order to sustain the current wages of the club. If we get an average attendance of 1,000 per match which is only a few hundred more than the current average then we will be able to have sustained growth and we see a name change crucial to that growth. We have got more coverage on the proposed name change in the press than anything else, even when we got to the second round of the F.A. cup more people wanted to talk about the name change so that suggests a name change can broaden our appeal.”

What is the likely option for the name change; will it still be Brighton City FC?

“Well it will most probably be a combination of the words Brighton and Whitehawk, but ultimately it will be the fans that have the most input and they will have the final say once we have fully consulted with them. I would love to be able to keep the name Whitehawk and I think this club has done more than any other single thing to change the reputation of Whitehawk for the positive but when the local press, papers such as The Argus keep doing negative stories about the area then it is hard to shake that reputation. I think they have a disproportionate amount of stories about the area on their front pages and it’s unfair, you look at a club like Millwall which has also had a lot of negative media coverage and it can only get an average attendance of around 10,000 even though it is in one of the most prosperous cities on earth. So reputations are hard to change. And Whitehawk FC has never actually been in Whitehawk, and I feel the club represents the city of Brighton very well (Whitehawk FC is well known for its liberal fan base and its quirky atmosphere) I think Brighton as a place allows you to have the freedom to be who you want to be and this club embraces that because that is an important part of being British.“

What has Brighton & Hove Albion FC said about the proposed name change?

“They are extremely against the name change and they have put a lot of pressure on the F.A. to block any plans we have. They have threatened us and sent us a lot of legal letters even threatening to close us down. They even wanted us to remove any use of the words “Brighton” and “City” from our club website; I am very keen to show the media the letters they have sent us because I think it’s not right how they have treated us. I believe no club in the Brighton area has the right to claim they are the only ones that can use the word Brighton.”

Thank you very much Mr Summers for speaking to The Verse

“No Problem.”

 

I personally wish the club the best of luck in the future with whatever they pursue, I thoroughly recommend people get down there for a game it truly is a unique atmosphere and when I went it was one of the best live football experiences I have ever had. I’m sure the club will come to an amicable decision with its fans with regards to the name change.

Interview by Luca Van Dresh

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