What Happened To My Penrith Panthers?

I find it very strange that when I sit down to watch my Penrith Panthers play these days, most of the time they are wearing a bright pink jersey.

Its hard enough being a Penrith Panthers supporter at the best of times. There have really only been a few times in the clubs entire history where they could have been considered as true title contenders.

When the club has reached the top of the mountain and claimed Grand Final success in 1991 and 2003, it only took them a a couple of short years before they were back to being a middle of the table team at best. Outside of these spikes in performance, the Panthers history is quite honestly bloody terrible!

Those Grand Final memories mean a lot to Penrith Panthers supporters. We cling onto those memories to get us through the tough times.

It makes me think about what makes your club your club. When you create memories, you remember moments, feelings, sights and sounds, these are the things that make you love your club. You live and die by their results. You wear the jersey with pride. Just seeing the clubs logo makes you feel proud. Its something you can identify with. Its part of who you are.

So what makes your club your club?

Is it the logo? Is it the clubs colours? Is it your teams jersey? Is it the players? Is it the game day experience?

If you changed enough of those things, at what point does your club stop being your club?

Over the last few seasons the Penrith Panthers have change their logo, removing the word “Penrith” from it. The club colours haven’t really changed, they are still mainly black, however does that really matter when the team, for what ever reason, keeps playing in a bright pink jersey?

Players come and players go, so a turnover in the squad isn’t a big issue for most supporters. However when you turn up at Penrith Football Stadium to find they have torn down the famous Panther shaped scoreboard and stopped playing the “Go The Mighty Panthers” song after wins, your game day experience has changed as well.

Luckily the Panthers reversed the last decision…

At a time when the Penrith Panthers are trying to rebuild the club it seems as though management has forgotten about some of the things that make the Penrith Panthers the Penrith Panthers. I’m not adverse to change but at times you have to ask yourself if the changes are adding something to the club or if they are simply change for changes sake.

The Penrith Panthers have a very small supporter base that has been put through a lot over the years. Poor results and terrible management take their toll on a supporter base over a long enough time scale. Now that the results are slowly turning around the club is openly wondering why the supporters aren’t turning up. With all of the changes that have been made, why aren’t fans responding by turning up to games?

My view is that many of the supporters that held on to the hope that Penrith would one day turn things around have been lost because their club has changed so much. Take away enough of a clubs identity and traditions, change the game day experience, make it look like a whole new club, and you turn the club into a soulless franchise.

Its all well and good to try and move the club forward but you can’t force change on the supporter base, never take any feedback on those changes, in some cases become openly hostile towards anyone that tries to put forward an opinion on those changes, and then wonder why you have turned so many of the clubs fans off.

I am the very first person to admit that I am a broken Penrith Panthers supporter. After so many years of putting up with garbage from the club it takes very little for me to get angry about things the Penrith Panthers do these days. The club needs to win people like me back. My feeling is that while the club is making all the right noises and doing what is thinks is the right thing to build the supporter base up again, they are not listening to want their own existing customers actually want.

Its not all bad. Some of the changes have good. Management needs to be very careful not to alienate the supporters they still have left though, because they simply can’t afford to!

It doesn’t take much to win fans over. Win a few games and make them feel like they are part of the club. Turn the club into something inclusive, not exclusive. Give your old supporters what they want as you try to bring new supporters to the club. Lure people in with your tradition, your inclusiveness, your openness and the chance to be part of something big.

Penrith Panthers management needs to realize that this isn’t a standoff. This isn’t a case of “us vs them”. A good management team will review their own performance, their own decisions and the outcomes that result from these decisions. If things aren’t working and people aren’t turning up to games, management of the club needs to consider that they have been wrong about a few decisions they have made.

As a Penrith Panthers supporter, I’m really easy to please.

Compete in games. You don’t have to win them all, just compete. Be in the race. Be there or there abouts. Let me turn up to games and enjoy a good contest. Let me have that same feeling I did when I first attended a match between the Panthers and Sharks so many years ago. Back when the club was a real club, when they wore a black jerseys and were proudly a product of Penrith.

At the very least, just wear the black jerseys in games. Yes I know you need an alternative jersey, but for everything you have taken away from this tortured Panthers supporters, just let me watch my team running around in black and not bright pink.

If that is too much to ask you need to ask yourself, who are you running this club for if its not for life long Penrith Panthers supporters like me?

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