The Cat’s Whiskers Panthers Fans Survey 2017

After devising the The Cat’s Whiskers Panthers fan survey Paul Balm has spent the past few weeks pulling all the data together. Here are the fruits of his labour.

INTRODUCTION
You can prove anything with statistics, I’ve shown that before, but I want this report/article/whatever you want to call it to be as open as possible. This fan survey wasn’t set up to take a pot shot at the club, there is no agenda in the background controlling what we’re asking. It is simply to find out who the fans of the club are and what they think. It also gives us an idea who is reading/listening to what we do. It was deliberately set up to be short as we felt that the shorter it was the more likely people would be to complete it. Other questions could have been added and possibly in hindsight should have been but the longer a survey is the less likely people are going to complete it (I wonder if there’s been a survey to prove that?) There are only two questions that required a text answer as we wanted to be able to quantify the information we received. As it happens it has been possible to quantify the written comments to a greater degree than we expected due to the nature of your replies (but we’ll get to that in due course).

It was always very important to us that we got as large a response as possible. It can be very easy to dismiss surveys with a small response as not being representative but that gets harder with each additional response. That’s the reason that we advertised the survey beyond the normal Cats Whiskers channels. You didn’t have to follow us on Twitter to see our requests as they were put out via various Facebook groups, other Twitter accounts and via the Cage Forum website. That means that we won’t necessarily get an entirely true picture of who our listeners and readers are but it did give us a better picture of Panthers fans and, who knows, might get us a few more followers.

I think we have achieved what we set out to do in terms of trying to get as large a sample as possible. We had over 500 responses in the first 24 hours which is in excess of 10% of Panthers core fanbase (that’s based on my own estimate and is the only statistic in this whole article that I can’t substantiate). Some responses have been removed, not because they were offensive (one was), or they didn’t fit the agenda (there isn’t one) or even because they said they wanted to see the back of the Cats Whiskers (yeah thanks!). The only reasons any response was removed was when it was obvious that it was not from a Nottingham Panthers fan or if it was obviously a duplicate (Google Docs will let you submit more than once unfortunately).

The removal of duplicates and responses that were clearly from fans of other teams left us with a total of 647 unique responses. It is this figure that any percentages stated in the results are based on. The IIHF listed Panthers average attendance for the 2016-17 season as 5,720 and that includes away fans in that figure. Even if you ignore the fact that there are away fans in that figure it means that we got a response from over 11% of an average crowd. If you remove a figure for away fans that percentage is obviously only going to rise but as there are no figures for that I’m not going to. That’s not bad at all and whilst it’ll give those that want to a reason to ignore the findings it does, to me at least, mean that we’ve got a fairly representative sample of Panthers fans in 2017.

CAVEATS AND THE MOVING GOALPOSTS
No survey is perfect. You can try and get the questions you ask right, you can choose a time when you think nothing is going to happen but we live in an imperfect world and things have a habit of changing just when you least expect or want them to. Just two days after we released this survey the EIHL announced that they were changing the conference structure. This could have had an effect on the questions about changes to how many games you attend as a lot of people have been unhappy about the new format. There’s not really a lot we can do about that and given that the majority of responses were before received before that announcement we have had to continue as we were.

There’s very little difference looking at the percentages for responses before and after the announcement so it probably hasn’t made much difference but we’ll never know.

You can’t ignore the human factor either. On both sides of the coin both the questioner and the questioned. I’ll read some of these stats in different ways to other people. Part of that is personality – whether you’re a glass half full or half empty type of person will have a huge effect on how you read the merchandise questions for example. What I see as a negative you may see as a positive. All of which is why the facts will be laid out with as little editorial comment from me as I can manage.

Some of the answers feel a little flippant. Some replies seem less than serious. I’ve left the replies in, regardless of how much I believe their voracity. If nothing else it’ll keep anyone who reads the whole data set entertained as they wait for the next to appear. I hope people told the truth, and I do think that the vast majority of people did, as it would spoil an opportunity if they didn’t.

THE RESULTS
OK, here’s the bit you’ve actually come to read, the results of the survey. I’ve split them up question by question in the same order that they were on the form. If you didn’t answer any questions about merchandise don’t worry, they only appeared if you said you’d bought any. Some questions will have more analysis than others (you don’t need much for the gender query for example) and some will be further split up using other criteria. I’ll try to keep the analysis as short as this introduction has been long and let the figures speak for themselves. Don’t worry, it’ll make more sense as you go on.

Question 1: What is Your Age?
A nice easy question to kick the survey off with. You can see from the figures below that the majority of fans fall into the 25 to 54 areas which is probably to be expected. Interestingly, there are no females over the age of 75 listening to TCW/watching the Panthers (and only three men)

Count Percentage
17 and under 20 3.09%
18 to 24 90 13.91%
25 to 34 152 23.49%
35 to 44 108 16.69%
45 to 54 148 22.87%
55 to 64 91 14.06%
65 to 74 35 5.41%
75 and over 3 0.46%

Age Split By Gender

Question 2: What is Your Gender?
This is possibly one of the questions that made me wonder most about whether the responses are about the TCW audience or the Panthers fan base. An almost two to one split between male and female (respectively) doesn’t sit very well with what I see in the stands. I could be wrong, but I’m not sure if I am.

Percentage
Male 64.87%
Female 34.05%
Prefer not to say 0.77%

Question 3: How Long Have You Been Watching Panthers?
Again, this was a question where the results were slightly surprising. Regular readers of what I have written for The Cat’s Whiskers will have noticed that I tend to comment on how little attention Panthers pay to their history. I might have been wrong about that. Well, I’m still right when I said that they should do more to acknowledge it but when you look at the figures of how long fans have been watching the team you have to wonder whether there’s any point. Almost two thirds of Panthers fans who responded to this survey have never watched a game in the old Ice Stadium. It’s probably higher than that as the groups don’t correspond directly with the move.

How long have you been watching Panthers

It appears that you’re more likely to stay watching the Panthers if you’re a man (although this may also be connected to the fact that more men responded than women). The percentage split of male/female is almost exactly 50/50 in the first five years but by the time you get to the final category, “31 years and above” the figure is more like 3 to 1.

Percentage split male & female

Question 4: Are You A Season Ticket Holder
There are many surprises here. Season ticket holders outweighed those who aren’t by 60% to 40%.

Count Percentage
Yes 387 59.63%
No 259 39.91%

ST Holder by Gender

It appears women are a little more likely to be season ticket holders than men.

ST holder by age

Why aren’t the 25 to 34 age group engaging with season tickets as much as the others? One possible reason is lack of disposal income.

ST Holder by years watching

Again no real surprises here, I’d expect to see a much higher level of season ticket holders for the longer established fan groups and this is borne out by this graph.

Question 5: Which Block Do You Normally Sit In?
Which block sat in

As you can see there is a fairly wide spread across which blocks you sit in. This is, I think, a fair representation of crowds at Panthers games. You wouldn’t expect to get a large number of responses from blocks 8 and 12 as they’re on the corners and, it would appear, mainly occupied by more casual fans and people in on freebies.

Question 6: How was the 2016/17 season?
When someone asked me the other week why I thought last season was so bad I replied, slightly flippantly if I’m honest, “Experience”. That might have been a bit of a cheeky answer but it was also true. I knew last season was poor because I’d seen so many more that were better, and probably a few that were worse too. I wanted to see if people agreed with me and whether there was any correlation between experience and how people thought the season went.

Count Percentage
Terrible 126 19.41%
Poor 339 52.23%
OK 147 22.65%
Good 27 4.16%
Great 7 1.08%

It’s pretty fair to say that the most of our fans weren’t overly enamoured of the 2016/17 season with 71% calling it poor or terrible and only 6% thinking it was good or great.

Looking at the gender split men were more likely to have a worse opinion of the season. 22% of men thought the season was terrible compared to “only” 14% of women. Women were more likely to think the season was OK or better.

Age Terrible Poor OK Good Great
17 and under 10.00% 35.00% 30.00% 20.00% 5.00%
18 to 24 16.67% 44.44% 30.00% 5.56% 3.33%
25 to 34 17.11% 53.29% 25.66% 3.95% 0.00%
35 to 44 28.70% 44.44% 22.22% 3.70% 0.93%
45 to 54 20.27% 52.70% 20.95% 4.73% 1.35%
55 to 64 17.58% 65.93% 15.38% 1.10% 0.00%
65 to 74 14.29% 71.43% 14.29% 0.00% 0.00%
75 and over 66.67% 0.00% 33.33% 0.00% 0.00%
Watching Terrible Poor OK Good Great
0 to 5 Years 10.00% 43.89% 37.78% 6.67% 1.67%
6 to 10 Years 22.30% 54.05% 15.54% 7.43% 0.68%
11 to 15 Years 23.53% 58.82% 11.76% 4.71% 1.18%
16 to 20 Years 15.71% 57.14% 27.14% 0.00% 0.00%
21-30 Years 22.89% 61.45% 15.66% 0.00% 0.00%
31 Years and Above 32.10% 48.15% 17.28% 0.00% 2.47%

If you split the data by age or time watching (which is experience really) there does seem to be some truth in what I thought. In both splits the trend in both Terrible and Poor is upward. There are some blips along the way (and some group sizes are very small) – the 35-44 group really weren’t happy. What is also interesting is that there are groups in both splits were not one single person thought the season was good or great. That amounts to 153 people in the groups of people who had been watching 16 – 30 years. Maybe there is some truth in the myth that older/more experienced fans are more likely to be cynical after all.

Question 7: Why Do You Think That?
Because this question is a text field based on the answer to the previous question it is hard to put any consistent figures to it. There are trends that appear as common words and phrases in each group though and that is what I have listed below (in each case the top five reasons, starting with the most popular, are listed):

Why was it “Terrible”:

  1. Poor recruitment
  2. Poor player attitude
  3. Poor league performances
  4. The coach
  5. The management

Why was it “Poor”?

  1. Poor recruitment
  2. Poor player attitude
  3. Poor league performance
  4. Lack of consistency
  5. Winning the Continental Cup

Why was it “OK”?

  1. Winning the Continental Cup
  2. Poor league performance
  3. No consistency
  4. Poor recruitment
  5. = Player attitude
    = Injuries

Why was it “Good”?

  1. Winning the Continental Cup
  2. Poor league performance
  3. Poor recruitment
  4. Great Players
  5. Likeable Players

Why was it “Great”?

  1. Winning the Continental Cup
  2. Poor league performance
  3. Likeable players
  4. Injuries
  5. =Entertaining/Great Games
    =Challenging for the league right to the end

There may seem to be some discrepancies in this list, particularly in the last couple of groups. How can the season have been great if the poor league performance is being cited? I’m not sure but if there were multiple reasons then each reason was counted so it might have been great due to the Continental Cup victory and despite the poor league performance.

Question 8: Did you buy any merchandise this year?

Count Percentage
Yes 279 42.99%
No 367 56.55%

Over half the fans who responded didn’t buy any merchandise this year. Not really very good that is it? If I was the Panthers I would be worried about that. The fans are their best advert and if they’re wearing a jersey or some other clothing then they’re a working billboard (or not).

Merch by age

Merch by years watched

There’s a noticeable similarity between the two graphs above. Younger or newer fans are more likely to buy merchandise. No great surprise there, it’s pretty much what I’d expected to see. What it does highlight though is that the Panthers need to examine their merchandise to try and see why it isn’t as desirable to the older, more experienced fans.

Question 9: Did you buy a shirt?
N.B. If you answered No to the previous question you would have skipped straight to question 12.

Count Percentage
Yes 142 50.53%
No 138 49.11%

This means that less than a quarter of the people who answered our survey bought a shirt this season. I don’t know how that equates to other teams but that doesn’t feel like a very positive statistic to me.

Question 10: Did you buy other clothing?

Count Percentage
Yes 196 69.75%
No 84 29.89%

Again, this doesn’t seem very positive to me. Although we didn’t ask why I can only think that this is likely to be down to the quality of merchandise on offer. Some of it is OK, the Reebook stuff for instance but the rest seems pretty poor to me. Are they still selling the flag with the wrong years on it?

Question 11: Did you prefer this season’s shirts to previous years?

Count Percentage
Warrior 37 13.17%
CH Sports 112 39.86%
No preference 131 46.62%

There’s two ways to read the results of this question. On the one hand the Panthers could look at this and say that almost 60% of the people who bought merchandise this year could are happy or at least don’t dislike the Warrior shirts. On the other hand 40% don’t like them. I probably missed a trick here. I could have added a question for those that didn’t buy a shirt asking whether or not they didn’t buy a shirt because of the change of material.

Question 12: Will you be watching more or less HOME games next season?

Count Percentage
More 94 14.48%
About the Same 487 75.04%
Less 66 10.17%

This is probably good news for the Panthers. I’m sure they’d take what amounts to a 4.5% increase in attendances from their “core” audience. When you add that to the number of seemingly casual fans that are also on the rise then attendances for Panthers are definitely looking healthy. That doesn’t mean they can be complacent though. There’s just over 10% of people who responded who, for whatever reason, are going to be at the NIC less next season and they need to consider why. They shouldn’t be getting complacent anyway. Selling out regularly against Sheffield is only half the story, those games sell themselves, they need to look at what they can do to bring people in for games like, with all due respect, Edinburgh mid-week and once those new fans are there how they keep them. Don’t get me wrong 90% of people who will be there as much or more than last season is very encouraging, it shouldn’t be seen as a job accomplished though.

Question 13: Will you be going to more or less AWAY games next season?

Count Percentage
More 159 24.50%
About the Same 397 61.17%
Less 91 14.02%

More good news and this time it’s for the other teams in the league. The Panthers’ already decent travelling support looks like it’s going to be about 10% bigger next season. I’m not sure if the CHL journeys will have affected this. It would be easy to say they had it we hadn’t been playing in the Continental Cup last season.

Again, if I had the chance to do this all again I’d have worded these questions differently. There’s nothing to compare them against so they can’t give a completely definitive answer. It might have been useful to know how many games respondents watched home and away this season but there’s not a lot I can do about that now.

Question 14: If there was one thing you would change about Nottingham Panthers what would it be?
I don’t really want to say too much about the results of this question. I don’t think I really need to, the results don’t really need a huge amount of description. They really are fairly self-explanatory. There probably needs a bit of explanation about how the figures came about though. Anyone who did the survey will probably remember that this was a free text question which meant that people could type what they wanted. To get from approximately 650 comments to a set of figures meant classifying each comment under a number of headings that were set by the comments themselves. The list of headings was created as I went through the data and a new one was created each time a new subject was mentioned. Some comments are scored in two or more different comments as they touched on multiple subjects. I’ve not included the actual comments – there are too many and they’re too varied to do that but here’s the top 15 (all the topics that got 10 or more votes).

The General Manager/Management 204
Fan Interaction (both how they do it and more events) 112
Better players 95
Ethos (hockey over money) – Central to the question are we a hockey club or a money making club? Any references to “Cash Cows” were added to this group 70
Fan Respect (inc honesty & transparency) -how the club treats us, what they say to us etc 51
Coach 44
PR/Marketing -including social media/website 33
Webcast 30
Atmosphere/Match Night – generic comments 26
Nothing 23
Making a league challenge a priority 16
The owner 14
Strength and Conditioning Coach 12
More GB players/junior interaction 11
Better Fans 10

Remember this was about asking the fans what they would CHANGE about the club. Interestingly off ice considerations outweigh on ice again with better players being highest, only third and half as ”popular” as the top one. After last season I would have expected it to be higher. There were some categories that just missed out – better cheaper merchandise , musical instruments at games (I’m guessing they mean drums, I can’t see a piccolo creating much atmosphere) was as big a concern a ticket prices. More Saturday games was only slightly more popular than more Sunday games and more people said they wanted to see Sheffield less than both of them. One final point, and if nothing else this shows how transparent we’re trying to be there were 50% more anti TCW comments than there were pro TCW.

I still don’t get what better fans means though.

Conclusion
There’s nothing really earth-shattering in the results but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you get the answers you expect. I thought that newer fans were more likely to be happier (well, less unhappy is probably a better way of putting it) about the last season and they were but not as much as I thought. The margins were a lot smaller than I thought they would be.

The gender split surprised me and, as I said earlier, I’m not sure whether that means that there are more male Panthers fans than I thought or maybe TCW just attracts more male listeners/readers. I don’t know.

We were all watching the same games this season but it’s amazing to see how differently we see those games. I expected some people to say that the season was good or great but their reasons seemed to differ a lot and yet there were some correlations in those reasons with those that were less impressed with how last season went. The only phrase that appears in all five groups of who the season was rated was “poor league performance”.

The merchandise questions show, to me, that this should be an area of concern for the Panthers. The fall off both in terms of age and time watching when it comes to buying merchandise can in some way be expected but the size of the fall off can’t be ignored.

When it comes to what people would change, there’s really very little good news for the Panthers in there and if I’m honest I’m not all that surprised. The calls for change have been growing ever more vocal over the last couple of years and if they hadn’t featured heavily in this survey it would have been a shock.

What is a shock, though, is some of the omissions or the placings of what felt like the larger talking points over the season. I would have thought that the need for a strength and conditioning coach would have got more than 12 votes but then again I didn’t vote for it. There’s no mention in the list of top improvements for getting rid of “Panther Bear”. It got a few votes but nowhere near as many as you might have thought such a burning issue.

Well, that’s it. I want to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey and has also spent much longer reading the results. It might not have blown holes in how we think of Panthers fans but it probably has shown us that we were right all along. And if nothing else that makes the whole thing worthwhile in my eyes. Thank you.

If anyone wants a copy of the original, uncensored data then please send an email to TCWOnlinesurvey@gmail.com.

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