HALIFAX PANTHERS FANS FORUM NOTES


Halifax Panthers Fan’s Forum 16 May 2024 The Shay Stadium

Hosted and MC’d by Matt Shaw, Rugby League Journalist.

Meeting length: 1 Hour 49 minutes.

Summarised notes for fans who were not able to attend in person. Initially planned as a live stream, however the Media Director felt fans would be able to talk more freely, without being concerned about their views being aired to a wider audience online. This appeared to be the case during the course of the evening. We apologise for the mixed messaging on streaming, the Director was in Australia until 48 hours before and hadn’t properly communicated this to the (excellent) media team ahead of his return.

Representing Halifax Panthers on stage:

  • Dave Grayson: Chairman
  • Damian Clayton MBE: CEO
  • Mark Bannister: Director
  • Ian Uttley: Director
  • Lee Kenny: Marketing & Media Director
  • Liam Finn: Head Coach
  • Sarah Morgan: General Manager (Cameo from off-stage)


Opening Comments from Chairman

Gave thanks to everyone for attending at short notice and reiterated, that like many Rugby League clubs, all Directors & Chairman operate in a voluntary and unpaid capacity in case it was unclear.

Addressed the current health of Rugby League as a sport is not wonderful. Not as lucrative as other professional sports, and that Panthers are no different. Extremely tough times for lots of clubs, and this is mirrored in the business world, with many key sponsors and partners of clubs finding times tough, including those businesses entering administration. This has a knock on effect of reduced income.

(All) Rugby Clubs rely on  Rugby Football League (RFL) central distribution monies to contribute towards operating costs. This is primarily generated through Sky, who’s broadcast deal has halved from £40m, to £20m.

Back in the middle Eight’s Halifax’s distribution money was circa £750,000. Last seasons was £100,000, so a significant drop. This can be determined by finishing position. Expectations for last season were £140,000 based on previous 2 years results.

Super League clubs receive circa £1.5m per year in context.

Club is in a transition period following Steve Lambert (commercial Director) exit from the club. Thanks were made to him and Pete McNamara for their contribution. Big shoes to fill and it will take some time for us to hit our stride again, though steps have been made in that direction with appointment of Rachel Garrod.

Several packages and memberships are now available to members as we look to strengthen both ticket sales alongside different revenue streams.

Marketing and communications from the club could be improved, hence asking Lee Kenny (Previously with the club during the rebrand) to rejoin the board to push the club forward and increase visibility.

Existing Shareholders and Directors have injected approximately £500,000 into the club so far, and continue to do so.

The original consortium has halved in number since the takeover, however remaining ones are filling the hole between operating costs and income.

Very unlucky with Injuries, at least 6 players who would walk into most Championship sides, not available due to injury.

Regards Liam Finn. Only 7 games into the new role as head coach, has full support and confidence from the board.

Spent around 25% more on the playing budget this season versus last season. Went for quality over quantity. Hurting us at the moment due to injuries, however, that’s the nature of sport. A gamble that could still pay off?

While lost 5 games so far, all those teams are in the Top 6 currently.

Dual registration (DR) would normally help fill some gaps, however, Leeds too have been unlucky with injuries, so a perfect storm early in the season.


Damian Clayton CEO

Introduced himself and background, 35 years in the Royal Air Force and explained his route to being invited into the role.

Explained lots of positive things happening alongside the club.

  • Establishment of official Charitable Foundation
  • Positive communications with CCCT
  • Positive engagements with 8 community clubs
  • Lots of discussions off the field and expanding the visibility of the Halifax Panthers brand
  • LDRL team doing well and helping expand the visibility
  • The wheelchair team continues their success and fully under Panther’s umbrella
  • Appointment of International player Amy Hardcastle for Panthers Women’s team
  • Standards and expectations in all areas of the club and its relationships are increasing, and need to be maintained and improved.
  • 80 young players through players’ pathway. Increasing age groups and good partnership with Calderdale College
  • Launch of Business Club positively received
  • Strengthening local partnerships including with kit supplier Orox
  • Nothing is perfect at the moment, a work in progress and heading in the right direction
  • Panthers merchandise is now in Harvey’s of Halifax department store.
  • Highlighted value of supporters in all areas of the club.
  • Volunteers and all staff are appreciated and expected to adhere to volunteer charter
  • Investigation options for Stadium with Dave Grayson to see how a transfer and working alongside FC Halifax town would look like
  • Striving for best-in-class in all areas. Still away to go, but everyone pulling in same direction
  • On the field is important, however, we also want to build a strong community making a positive difference to the area


Liam Finn with Matt Shaw, then fans Q’s


  • Been a tough start
  • Even though squad is down to bare bones, we are building a committed set of players who want to pull on the Blue & White and not just here for the money
  • Tough times show peoples true colours
  • We need to start winning games
  • Greg Eden struggled with Full-time to part-time transition. While it sounds easy, Full time, you are training each day, finishing early afternoon with a few days off. Part time, you are learning a trade/working, then training 2-3 times a week in the evenings. Clearly not getting the best out of him on the field, and he’s probably done us a favour by wanting away.
  • Brandon and Dan Murray little different, didn’t look like they were going to get guaranteed starting places, so out of respect, give them opportunities elsewhere. In hindsight…!
  • Injuries not just unforeseen, much higher volume than anyone could guess
  • Always actively looking for players, will continue to do so.
  • Normally Dual Reg would pick up some slack, but Leeds also had a terrible run of injuries limiting our ability to pick up players
  • Some players available at other clubs, but not necessarily an improvement on our players
  • Tom & Connor great examples of someone who really gives their all. Tom played 20 mins with broken Jaw, Connor taped up and plated out the game. V committed
  • Ex Super League clubs not always the way to go in Championship, due to 12-month adjustment period
  • Some clubs panicked and over-bought with 10+ players, I’d prefer to back the squad
  • Injury Update
    • Adam OB Just completed his first training session back, probably 3-4 weeks away
    • Crookes – Difficult, a few complications, ever-changing. Latest is 12-18 weeks
  • Why is Liam visiting South stand and hospitality before the game. Is it right? He felt all prep has been done, rest of the team can handle the warm-up.
  • Should Liam be by the side of the pitch (Premier League style)? Liam feels the current vantage point benefits the amount of changes in Rugby.
  • Decided this year to go for quality over quantity. If this had worked, we look like heroes, when it doesn’t, it’s a struggle. Again Hindsight is a wonderful thing

 

Directors Q&A

Rent Arrears situation:

Business model is difficult with only matchday ticket & merch revenue. Historical decisions mean rent was backed up alongside lots of other obligations. Calderdale Council have been very supportive and understand. We’ve agreed a payment plan which has now started which means that existing rent is paid, plus extra to pay down the arrears.

Headlines have been incorrectly interpreted as not paying rent for over 12 months, not correct. Payments have been made, but they were allocated to older invoices.

Fortunately, Calderdale Council have annual budget of over £220m per year, and while arrears are unfortunate, it is not delaying any work on the ground or pitch.

Stadium Acquisition. Current status

We are sitting down with The council, FC Halifax Town, and David Bosomworth has been proactive in questions for the Council.

Due Diligence is still ongoing for all parties. Until done, no firm plans can be submitted

Next meeting early June, then a follow-up meeting

It would be a game-changer for both clubs could we could take over stadium.

If we decide to take over the stadium, it does open other revenue streams, but also other inward-investment opportunities too.

IMG

IMG criteria also reward clubs for primary tenancy in terms of qualifying for the ability to play in Super League.

Bums on seats is the ultimate way forward. Re-engaging past supporters, connecting with more new fans.

If we can get to 2500-3500 fans regularly as next step, makes a huge difference

Why would Championship clubs vote in favour of IMG if no promotion?

In the early IMG presentations, there were a lot of similarities between what they were looking for, and where we were aspiring to be. Sustainability, and growth.

IMG narrative was that if IMG grades could be achieved, Super League would be expanded to support.

Visibility and updates from the club on IMG and progress could, and will, be improved.

We aren’t chasing IMG points specifically, but if we do the right things, they’ll come along.

Other

Match days costs circa £4500 per match in operational costs, increases if we open early, or have more stands open. Fairly restrictive at the moment.

Can marketing and visibility be improved? Yes, already started with fixtures being published in 50,000 + local magazines this month, more visibility around town to increase over coming weeks.

Full Audio available. Click here to view now

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