Walking Wallets?

This week Paul Balm looks at the relationship between club & fans. He also pays tribute to Craig Kowalski

The relationship between teams and fans can, at times, be quite complicated and can also something of a tightrope that teams have to walk. On the one hand a team has to build a rapport with them and on the other hand they have to be seen as a revenue stream. It’s how you manage the two and find some middle ground that’s important.

Some teams seem to do this very well. You only have to look at the work Todd Kelman has done in Cardiff this season and Belfast before that to see how it can be done. It’s all about inclusion, bringing the fans and the teams together so that they feel part of one big organisation. This is something that I feel Panthers don’t do very well at all. I no longer feel a connection with the current Panthers team and it feel like there’s a them and us culture between the players and the fans that can only be crossed if you pay to go to an organised event.

Success obviously has a part to play in this, would the bond be as strong in Cardiff if they were having a season like Dundee but I think there’s also the issue of the size of the team that has to be considered. I think Blaze regularly have a couple of players signing autographs after the game because the size of their crowd means that the length of the queue is manageable. Consider how long that queue would be in Nottingham or, just as importantly, where it would be.

There are ways around these issues. It’s just a matter of thinking differently, about asking yourself what you want to give the fans in return for that they’re giving you. No, that’s not quite right, clubs have to ask themselves what they think the fans are giving them and then deciding what they want to give them in return. If the club’s answer is money then they probably think it’s fine to simply hold event after event where you’re charged on the door, where every event or book, calendar or card set is in association with some company or other. You’re not a fan to them you’re a walking wallet. Don’t get me wrong income like this important to any club but so is everything else us fans bring.

If your club believes that fans bring more than just money, that they bring passion, that they are the very life blood of a club, the heart then you’re one of the lucky ones because it shows that they value you as much as your wallet and that must be great. I would love to be told that what I did was valued by the club and actually believe it because it wasn’t tacked on to an advert for something else.

Buy the shirt, buy the DVD, pay to talk to a player, thanks for being a fan. See the problem? It’s all about priorities.

The reason I decided to write all that above this week is that Panthers have got another set of shirts for sale. Nothing new about that, there’s a ‘y’ in the day after all but this time it’s their once a year first come first served fixed price so we don’t need a telephone queueing system bonanza. Being the Panthers though they have to give it a twist & this time all shirts will be £100, £200 or £300. Now if you want to pay that sort of money and you’ve got enough patience to get through then that’s fair enough and good luck to you but there are one or two things about it that stick in my craw a little. There is the question of the price hikes. Want a game worn Kowalski – this year it’s £300 , last year £120. OK, so that one might be a bit special given the aftermath of Westgarth’s Bambi impression on Saturday so how about upgrading the Boxill shirt you got for a bargain £70, that’s more than quadrupled in price to £300 too.

There’s a reason for this and that it’s contained in a sentence in the press release “We know the average auction hammer prices for our game worn shirts” and for all their comments about names being drawn out of a hat to decide the price which may or may not have caused the price rises listed earlier (I know which I believe) there’s one fact that is incontrovertible – only six of the shirts they sold in the similar way last season were over £100 and no shirt was over £190. Now, it has to be stated that some of those were only game issue and they had to sell Grimaldi’s off cheap I suppose, but that’s a pretty hefty price hike all round and you’re the ones who are going to be paying. So, basically “We know the average auction hammer prices for our game worn shirts” actually means we know just how much we can squeeze out of people and if we keep telling them they’ve got a bargain they’ll believe us eventually. The “problem” is that they’re right and they know it, people will be ringing the phone off the hook when these go on sale & if that’s what they want to do then that’s up to them. It’s the laws of supply and demand at work and it’ll go on until that demand disappears which isn’t likely any time soon but maybe, just maybe it will if people continue to feel under-vauled by their club.

Talking of Craig Kowalski, I like most people was saddened to hear that we won’t see him between the pipes for Nottingham again this season or perhaps at all. If that’s the case then I think we’re going to struggle to replace him. There were two things I liked about him and they essentially stem from the same thing- he always seem so unassuming. A lot of goalies turn a glove save into some sort of rhythmic gymnastic display catching a puck about foot off the ice with a sweeping motion that starts on the ice and ends up with the puck somewhere two foot above your head (obviously if you’re Brian Stewart you have to fall over as well but that just gets you a netminder of the year nomination). K-Wall isn’t (I can’t write wasn’t) like that, he just did what he was supposed to do, he caught the puck. Those catches where he just snaps the glove up and catches with puck with the minimum of fuss will live long in the memory. The second thing is the way he reacted to shutout – he didn’t . You’d have thought he was waiting for a bus by the amount of emotion he didn’t show. I guess that’s because his job is to not let goals in and if he’s done that then he was just doing his job. I could of course be completely wrong but if I know one thing, if he doesn’t return I feel sorry for the person who’s got to fill his skates.


2 Responses to “Walking Wallets?”

  1. 1 The Editor March 16, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    You forgot only players sponsors can see a end of season trophy being presented nothing for the game going fans

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. 2 Mick chambers March 17, 2015 at 9:40 am

    I envy your writing. Wish I could do this. Good articles mate.

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