Why does anybody volunteer to help the Phoenix?

Tuesday, 12th August 2014

On the 5th of April 2014, I stood in a box, at the backs of hundreds of Phoenix Faithful to see our boys cross a bridge they had no right to cross, and reach the playoff final. Long before that day, I had made a decision to leave the club, to head South in pursuit of personal ambition.

What I did not anticipate however, was that my search for personal advancement would be halted dead in its tracks. In complete honesty, I saw the Phoenix as a stepping stone for myself professionally, and if I could help out the club I had supported as a child, then great. In a relatively short space of time, a bond has formed between this club and I, which will remain with me for as long as I live. “Phoenix till I die”, as the Choirboys sing.

Often have I referred to the Phoenix as a family, and I mean that in every sense of the word – I’ll explain why a little later. Years ago, in torrential rain outside what was then the M.E.N arena, ice hockey in Manchester ceased to be, it appeared a family had been separated. There are those in our organisation today however, who were there on that night, and they now lead our family.

What people may be aware of, although they do not see it on a daily basis, is the time, sacrifice and continued effort that goes in to keeping the Phoenix alive. Allow me to give my own example. My time at the club thus far has coincided with me being a student, as well as handling multiple other jobs and responsibilities. I couldn’t afford a car, so every Sunday I would travel a five hour round trip on public transport to fill my role at the Phoenix. I wasn’t paid, nor did I have expenses covered – on the simple basis that it couldn’t be afforded. There are people who volunteer for the Phoenix that have given up, and continue to sacrifice more than I do.

A man for whom I have great respect, admiration and no small measure of thanks to once said, “If you believe in a dream for long enough, it becomes reality”. Our reality now is this; on and off the ice is a constant battle for the organisation. The recession has bitten hard, and money is hard to come by. Yet, year after year, the Phoenix ice a competitive roster, and challenge for trophies. It gives me great pride to know that consistently, we come out on top, too.

Somebody has to foot the bill for our success. I have worked for some of the biggest sporting organisations and events across the globe, and all of those have one thing in common; they are driven corporately, designed for commercial and financial success. This is not how the Phoenix run. In a traditional sense, any financial advisor would raise their eyebrows at the Phoenix accounts – in that we spend more money than we generate in order to be competitive. To put it bluntly, we are beginning to struggle. The only real way this club can save any more money is to reduce the quality of the product on the Ice, and as you all know Tony and Neil don’t want to do that as they believe it is the quality of the product they produce is what plays a big part in providing the exciting entertainment you all come to see and support...

Now, it was my realisation of this struggle, and the relationship I have with the club and fans that formed the base of my decision to stay. I felt that to leave, was to run away and wash my hands of the challenges this club faces. At the Phoenix, there is no running and hiding. As the guys on the ice do every weekend, sleeves are to be rolled up, and you’re to get stuck in. I would not see ice hockey in Manchester dwindle again, a view I hope you all share.

We are a family. Naturally, we fight amongst ourselves occasionally; we’re sports fans and that’s in our nature. I have a mentor and a friend for life in Neil Morris, I have a teacher in Pete Hagan, I have my auntie Mags. I even have my sister in all but blood relation in Miss Corrigan… and I have Tambo who is the family’s walking encyclopaedia on British Ice Hockey. And you, Faithful, are as family to me too. I have no doubt you have your own “hockey families”, with which you share similar relationships. Without you, the organisation would not exist. From the organisation’s point of view, we don’t always see eye-to-eye, we understand that as fans, you have certain expectations and demands, and we do our best to fulfil them. We won’t ask for praise or reward when we do fulfil them, nor will we sulk or take offense when criticism is given, that’s not what the Phoenix are about. What we’d ask for is help and support. You are truly the greatest supporters I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with, it’s time for a boost. If you’re less than satisfied with an aspect of the organisation, as opposed to criticism, why not suggest or offer a solution? If the club is to move forward, we must move forward together.

These are not desperate times, nor am I suggesting desperate measures. Let’s prevent it from coming to that. I work with a sensational team behind-the-scenes that work to secure sponsorships and partnerships to keep us on the ice. The work of the Community Foundation, and of the Supporters Club are examples of the difference you as fans can make off the ice. As you all know we are working hard at the moment to build a Business Club without your support it will never attract new sponsors, and the club desperately needs new blood. So please join and take advantage of all the great offers that will be coming this season including discounted tickets to see the current Premier League Ice Hockey Champions in action.

I am delighted to be staying, and I can’t wait for the new season. Neil and Tony have excelled themselves yet again to put a stronger team on the ice. We now have to excel ourselves and be louder, prouder and stronger than ever before.

So faithful, this is your call to arms. The War of the Roses is almost upon us, and there’s the small matter of a crown to defend. Time for battle.

Fidem Serva,