If Phantoms dramatic last gasp elimination from Thursday night’s Autumn Cup semi-final wasn’t exactly a shock, the swathes of empty seats at Bretton certainly was !
A quick top ten of the greatest all time hockey games played at the rink would certainly include many a midweek cup game with fans hanging from the rafters and an atmosphere that had the hairs on your neck standing up from the start (as with the image above from a midweek cup game in 2009) but Thursday night just didn’t happen. Yes it is just the “tinpot” NIHL and yes it was only a “tinpot” competition too but come on ….. it WAS a cup semi final and we were only one game away from a final and potentially the first home-ice silverware since 2009 !
Yes the fans had to pay as it was a non-season ticket game but the club had acted smartly to reduce the entry to £10 which is not bad for a big game. Yes it was a school night but most Phantoms fans don’t bring kids so hardly a significant factor either ….. so what was no-show really about ?
Was it the usual bland marketing and (lack of) hype that saw the entire promotion for this major game shoe-horned into one drab Facebook post declaring that we were playing on Thursday night and that it started at 7:45pm …… oh and a couple of hashtags of course ? Was that really the best we could do for a cup semi-final ?
Whatever the reasons, the small crowd for an important game WAS very worrying and should be a cause for concern. If big games only pull crowds like this then you can bank on the club running a smaller budget next season in order to try to break even and that can only diminish the on-ice product thus the vicious spiral downhill will begin.
The obvious response is to point at the fans and ask “where were you” but with the big drop in season ticket sales and no obvious evidence of crowd growth so far this season, if it were my club then I would be holding urgent “in house” inquests right now.
We didn’t choose to drop to this level but we could still have made a go of things IF we maintained our standards on AND off the ice. I think we have struggled to maintain standards on the ice but we have definitely let our standards plummet off the ice and off the ice is where all the drivers for keeping and adding to bums on seats should be coming from.
The switch of home game nights was an unbelievably risky move in times of uncertainty and a move that shows no evidence of being a profitable one but aside from that, a website that looks smart but is as much use as a chicken-wire submarine because nobody seemingly knows how to update it, key information on fixtures and prices that is either inaccessible or plain incorrect and a complete lack of vibrant, enthusiastic, exciting marketing either inside or outside of the fanbase.
When we survey fans and find that an estimated 40-50 fans didn’t attend a home game because they never knew there WAS a game on in the first place then we have a serious problem.
We should forget Thursday night’s cup exit – we gave our best and came a close second but we shouldn’t let the dismal turnout pass us by without action because that failure definitely did not arise from us giving our best. Start talking, more importantly start listening and then start acting fast otherwise we will be lethargic witnesses to the biggest and most worrying decline in Peterborough hockey for more than twenty years !