Jamie Black is the son of Nottingham Panthers owner Neil Black. He spent three years at the University of Nottingham, where he watched Panthers’ home games and worked on a number of projects for the club. Jamie now studies at the University of Cambridge but still maintains his interest in the Panthers and UK Ice Hockey.
Jamie spoke with TCW’s Jono Bullard via e-mail.

You’re aware of Elliott Stanley’s petition to your father asking for changes within in the Nottingham Panthers. What is your opinion of it with respect to Gary Moran?

This nonsense about Gary Moran must stop – it’s ridiculous. It sounds like a bitter divorcee irrationally agonising over her ex.
The traditional argument is that Gary interferes with the Coach, but this is not the case so allow me to clarify the management structure at the club. Neil sets the corporate strategy, makes the long-term decisions and handles external affairs. Gary is the General Manager and is responsible for the day-to-day off-ice business of the club, although this does not include the shop that is run by the NIC. Importantly, there is a clear distinction between on and off ice management, whereby the Coach is set a budget and given full autonomy.
Although Elliot’s argument is quite different, he argues that Gary indirectly, rather than directly, harms the team’s performance through setting a ‘tone’ and generating a ‘culture’, which are antithetical to winning. For the record, I do agree the website should be more objective, with improved spelling and that we should better utilise social networking websites. However, these factors wont really have any affect on the ‘culture’ that has developed over 60 years, let alone the team’s performance.
Elliot touches on, but does not fully develop the concept of club culture. Our failure to win the league may be a result of the collective desire to play uber attractive and attacking hockey. Panthers are expected to win and win in style. A bit like my beloved Spurs, this is why we have historically performed stronger in the cup than the league. Playing an attacking style it’s more difficult to be consistent and grind out results, especially in small rinks with poor ice. Let’s stop conspiracy theorising and have a serious dialogue about this.

With regards to serious dialogue, what form do you see this taking and with whom?

Through oral and written debate within the fans internally and between the fans and the management. In general I think there should be more interaction between the fans and the management. We do a supporters club meeting, which I’ve been to in the past, but this is not enough and we need to widen participation. I like the idea of a fans forum, which would ultimately allow the organisation to better understand its loyal customers. I’m also an advocate of using focus groups to gage opinion specifically on off-ice issues, such as the website and the match-night show. However, ironically, the main obstacle to these initiatives is the kind of anti-Gary discourse that I mentioned before. This is why it must stop. I think most of the fans would like a serious discussion and it’s a shame that a minority is preventing it.

With respect to Corey Neilson, Mick Holland of the Nottingham Evening Post wrote an article last Saturday asking the fans to ‘tough it out.’ Do you agree?

No I don’t. Holland asserts that supporters of the petition have ‘already written off Panthers’ season’, but this is untrue. I believe the immediate appointment of a new coach, or perhaps Rick Strachan, would increase the chances of success in the Challenge Cup and the Play-Offs.
The two shoot-out victories last weekend are not evidence of any fundamental change. Our problem isn’t an ability to win, but win consistently and convincingly. Have you ever heard of a team win 15-0, having lost to the same team four days earlier and then lose a week later?
A further problem is the chronic last minute choke, due to tactics and confidence. We need a fresh start through a change in coach, although clearly Mick and Neil think differently.

Regardless of who is coach and who is on the roster, Panthers always seem to start the season well before falling back and are, with the odd exception, out of the title race shortly after Christmas. Do you concur with this view and what do you feel are the reasons?

I can’t really disagree with the factual element of the question – unfortunately! People can highlight the management as a factor, but personally I don’t see any causality. We are the best-managed club in the league – that is a fact.
It’s not because other clubs cheat, although clearly they do, and I don’t think its fair that Sheffield have gained significant advantage in past years through alleged tax avoidance. Can allegedly spending money on players instead of VAT and then liquidating the company be classified as anything other than cheating? I’m still outraged, because all the trophies Sheffield won under Bob Philips are essentially illegitimate in my opinion. Nothing can be done now, but we were potentially robbed of silverware. They don’t call them the Steelers for nothing! Although if they were a cat like us, they would definitely be a Cheetah.
Dave Simms wrote last year that it’s a ‘curse’, but I think we need to consider the notion that we haven’t been a big club for that long. Having said that the league title is still long overdue and it’s frustrating for everyone – but our time will come. People used to say that golfer Phil Mickleson couldn’t win a major, but now he’s won four. Maybe, like Phil, we should become a little bit more defensive, but not too much.

Your father has spoken this week about a proposal to extend the Elite League season and other innovations and ideas about the future of the sport. How do you feel it has been received?

I don’t really know how it has been received, but can comment on my position. There are a number of advantages to extending the season, including a significant reduction or even elimination of the midweek games and it would allow greater opportunity for new competitions. Most fans would welcome an increase in the variety of opposition, both foreign and domestic. Although, I fear the EPL teams will not welcome the idea of an ‘FA Cup’, due to politics, but think that ties with Europe should be strengthened.

What opportunities to you feel stronger ties with Europe would yield for both Panthers and the Elite League?

Already mentioned that it would be great for the EIHL fans to see wider variety of teams and playing styles. European competitions raise the profile of the league within the Ice Hockey community and will help the league to attract better players. It’s a win-win. With the changes in immigration law it’s a necessity that we have more EU nationals playing the league.
For us, there has been talk of moving to a European league, but I think we will continue focus on building domestically, rather than looking outwards. Although a pre-season tour of Europe would not go amiss. Anyone up for that?

The Cat’s Whiskers would like to thank Jamie for his time. All constructive comments and feedback regarding the interview are welcome.

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6 Responses to “Jamie Black – February 2011”


  1. 1 sarah deakin February 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    I think it is good to finally have some honest answers and
    there was definetly some food for thought.
    However I think that it’s about time Neil and Gary answered
    the fans questions instead of Neil’s son. If Neil owns the club
    and Gary is his general manager, they should be speaking up with
    some answers or a press release of some sort.
    I appreciate that I don’t know if Jamie volunteered his time or
    if Jono approached him for his views but I do feel slightly cheated
    by having no word on the ongoing issues from “The Club”.

  2. 2 ianbraisby February 16, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Excellent interview Jono, and credit to Jamie for his time and opinions. I beg to differ on his views regarding what is standing in the way of dialogue between management and fans – it is not the fans’ attitude to the management but the (at least perceived) attitude of management to fans. Those people who have tried to make constructive suggestions or ideas, offer badly needed help to the club etc. and had it thrown back in their faces, publicly ridiculed or even ignored are testament to this, among numerous other things that are said, written and done by the club that alienate dedicated and long-standing supporters. While this may not be Jamie’s personal experience, with the greatest respect the way you will be treated as the owner’s son and the way you will be treated as an average loyal Panthers fan are, naturally, very different. A dialogue is urgently needed, but the impetus needs to come from the management side initially. Maybe the petition and subsequent discussions might trigger this kind of process, I hope it does for the sake of our club’s future.

  3. 3 Mark February 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Another failure to accept any wrong doing on Gary Moran’s part.

    Waste of time as future season’s will prove.

  4. 4 IanC February 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    I find it very interesting that a relative of the owner, a student not even an employee, seems to be speaking authoritatively on behalf of the Panthers. Sarah is quite correct in asking why it isn’t the owner or General Manager who is being interviewed. Oh, to be quite nitpicky, I found it amusing that Jamie Blacks states that the “website should be more objective, with improved spelling” yet he speaks or is quoted as speaking about “using focus groups to gage opinion”. I always thought the word was “gauge”!

  5. 5 Jamie Black February 18, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Lol – give me a break!

  6. 6 John Thomas February 18, 2011 at 11:11 am

    First of all, thanks to Jono and Jamie for their time – an interesting interview although, like others, I am puzzled that it is “by proxy” rather than directly with the owner or management.
    I was one of the signatories to Elliotts petition, although not without some misgivings as I am not sure that a bloodletting is the best way to resolve the problems. However, like many fans I had become utterley frustrated with the performances and results and there seemed to be no channel of communication with the clubs management – in any case I am still waiting for a reply to an e-mail I sent on the 20th December, not a complaint but merely a polite enquiry about the possibility of a visit to my daughers school.
    I really do think that a fans forum along the lines of the one arranged by the league earlier in the season would be useful – perhaps twice a season? Of course there is a risk that some will simply simply want to criticize and complain but most of us are also willing to listen. Some platform for an exchange of view is surely useful to both the club and its fans – silence is rarely helpful.
    I take on board the comments about The Steelers but Coventry have won a few titles as well haven`t they? and I am not aware of anyone suggesting that they have breached whatever wage caps are in place (on that subject why can`t the league be open about the arrangements ?- The NHL publish their figures).
    My grandson and I have been following The Panthers for just over three years, we have seen every home game in that time and have now started taking in a few away games – this doesn`t make me the greatest expert on the sport and the teams tactics but it does seem that the desire to play “entertaining” hockey is often getting in the way of simply winning the games – you don`t have to play boring “grinding” hockey all the time but you surely ought to be able to hold on to a three goal lead with sensible tactics – this alone would have garnered several more points for the team this season. It seems to me that the teams who are scooping up the silverware all follow a similar template – teamwork, commitment, discipline and sound tactics with a sprinkling of real talent.
    Most of the fans I sit with have been supporting the club for 10, 20, or even 30 years and now bring along their children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces – these people are the lifeblood of the club and their views should be heard.We all appreciate that the sound management and commercial success of the club has provided a platform for supporting the team but without exception they crave success for the team and simply want a first class coach with a clear brief to win games – surely this can be achieved without stringing five skaters along the blue line. A 3-1 scoreline tonight will suit me just as well as 6-4 and I`m sure K-Wall would share that view.


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