I’ve been a fan of the Panthers since moving to Nottingham in 2013, granted that’s nothing compared to some of the long term fans from the ‘good old days’. But Ice Hockey is a sport that I and thousands of others adore, and come the highs or lows we all know we just can’t get enough! So it was great to find a team that’s loved by its fans, most of whom would do anything for the club they support. I’m now proud to be a season ticket holder, and every game I enjoy the fantastic atmosphere that we the fans can create at the arena, no matter what is happening on the ice. Sadly though I’ve begun to realise that the Panthers Organisation seems to be increasingly viewing its fans as walking ‘£’ signs instead of the genuine supporters that we are. Yes we all know that the Panthers is a business, and no one is silly enough to think that it’s easy to run a professional sports team, but when a Club starts losing its connection to the fans, and turns to gimmicks to draw the crowds in, it’s the start of journey that won’t end well.
It’s all too easy these days to take out one’s frustrations by turning into a social media keyboard worrier, and whilst it can relieve the annoyances in the short term, it doesn’t make any difference in the long run, and is far too easy for the Panthers Organisation to ignore. Social Media does have its uses though and I stumbled upon the fantastic work of Rob Scott and others who are at the beginnings of forming the Nottingham Panthers Supporters Trust.
After reading the information available on the Supporters Direct website and the seeing the obvious passion to get fans to engage with the process, I decided to attend the planned meeting on the 2nd January – I’ll take a moment here to give credit to those who stood outside the arena in the cold handing out leaflets, they did a brilliant job of raising awareness of the trust to the whole fan base.
So following the Panthers win over Edinburgh, I and 60+ other fans made the short trip out of the arena to Bunkers Hill for the 2nd Nottingham Panthers Supporters Trust meeting. Now I’ll admit that I fully expected to sit through an hour or so of people moaning about the team’s performance to date, demanding that everyone be sacked, and shouting that their grandmother could do a better job of running the club – but it wasn’t like that at all…
Rob and Elliott gave a great presentation around the plans for the Trust and the benefits of being a legal entity, that has Government backing. The focus was on ensuring that everyone understood that the Trust will be here for the long term, and is about creating dialogue between the fans and the Panthers Organisation, rather than being a protest group, and that as a Trust we can show that the fans of the Panthers want to support the Club in becoming as successful as it can be. When it came to the open discussion time, I again braced myself (and I’m sure Rob did as well) for the moaning to begin, but again it didn’t. The questions being asked were meaningful and showed how much people cared and wanted to do as much as they can to get things moving forward. There was a real energy in the room by the end and a feeling that whilst it’s going to be an uphill struggle and not something that will happen overnight, having a Supporters Trust could actually work to enable us to engage with the Panthers Organisation to safeguard the team that we all love and adore, for generations to come.
At the end of the meeting, after a very polite round of applause from a group of fans far more used to making as much noise as we can, it was great to see the number of people who stayed behind to make offers of support and who are prepared to give up their time to help get the Nottingham Panthers Supporters Trust off the ground. Clearly there are still plenty of fans who care enough for this sport, the Panthers team, and the entertainment that our hard earned money pays for each season – that we can make a success of this and help shape the Panthers Organisation for the benefit of everyone involved. I would urge anyone who wants to see the Panthers and British Ice Hockey in general continuing to grow from strength to strength, to get involved with the formation of the Trust. It’s clear that other EIHL teams are open to the idea of Supporters Trusts and the benefits they can bring and we can all ready the Social Media posts by fans of other teams that are feeling as let down by their Club’s as we do at times so let’s be the first Ice Hockey Supporters Trust in the EIHL and show the others how its done.