GayFootballExhibition

Newcastle Panthers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newcastle Panthers

 

Russell Potter – the team’s co-founder tells the story of the Newcastle Panthers – the North East’s first gay football team:

“In March 2008 Russell Potter and Rob Wood met on the gay website www.gaydar.co.uk. They both noticed that they had a particular interest in football and discussed the possibility of getting a few gay people together for a knock around. Rob had previously searched "gay football" on Google and found out about the GFSN National League. Russ and Rob then got together in April 2008 to discuss how they were going to approach setting up their own team to potentially enter the GFSN National League. A reason why they both decided to set up a predominantly gay football team was as a response to many gay people’s general feeling of not wanting to get involved in straight teams due to prejudice. Also, Russ and Rob thought it would be a good idea to set up a gay team in Newcastle as the City is one of the most football loving cities within the UK. They both felt that this could also encourage gay people to get involved in the game that they love.


They then both decided on the team name. Strangely, but very funnily, this turned out to be one of the most difficult things to decide on. Many names were considered, from really funny innuendo-style names to names that reflected some sort of animal. They considered naming the team after the North East region rather than a City, however, Newcastle is very much seen as a huge football fanatical City and also an excellent City for Nightlife and Culture. Therefore Newcastle was chosen to be the name. The Panthers came about due to Russ' love for Sunderland Football Club, whose nickname is the Black Cats. Thus Newcastle Panthers was born and in a bright spark moment we then realised the significance of the name and the Pink Panther. Pink being seen as a gay symbol and the Panthers been chosen as the team name, this then produced the nickname for the team – “The Pink Panthers”.
 
Other things that were then decided that first night of getting together were "How Do We Get Players?" They then set up Newcastle Panthers Football Club profiles on www.gaydar.co.uk and www.fitlads.net. Rob and Russ then contacted hundreds of people on these web sites to promote the team and gain players. Many people replied to messages that were left and the following week Russ and Rob organised a meeting in Newcastle in one of the gay bars. This night was a great success with in excess of 15 people turning up to show an interest. That night a training session was arranged at The Angel of the North football pitches and everyone showed up. Through these websites, they were also contacted by people that did not want to play but had a huge interest in supporting the Panthers due to their belief that this was a great idea for North East gay people. A graphic designer contacted them offering to design a logo whilst others volunteered to coach the team. Training then commenced and continues each week on a Tuesday and Sunday evening.


Rob and Russ still wanted to attract more players, so decided then to contact the local press to advise them what they were doing. They had a great response and were contacted by the Newcastle-based Evening Chronicle, who then decided to do a full page article on what was being done and the reasons why. This attracted even more players and even more publicity from the press with Russ being interviewed on BBC 5 Live and BBC Radio Newcastle. This publicity served to promote the team across the North East and also even more importantly, attract players from across the Newcastle Gay Scene.

 
The article in the Evening Chronicle even meant that Russ was contacted by on old lady to complain. The complaint was expected to be about it being a gay team, however it was about the reference to black cats in the team name - she was appalled that Sunderland would be associated with Newcastle in some way! They felt this call alone showed how much things have moved forward and how the mentality of people in the North East has changed towards homosexuality over the years. Another call was from an old gentleman to ask if he could get involved in coaching the team as he had coached his 2 sons in the past when they were boys. Many calls were expected to mock the fact that the article was to promote a gay football team, however no such nature were received.


The next thing that Russ and Rob decided was to set up a committee and constitution for the Club, set up bank accounts, obtain a team and strip sponsor and all the associated things needed to organise and play football. Many teams from across the GFSN contacted the Panthers to show their support – saying they were thrilled that a team had at last been set up in Newcastle, many being of the opinion that this had been a long time coming.


The Newcastle Panthers continued to train twice a week for 3 months and then arranged their first friendly game against the Edinburgh-based Hotscots. The Panther’s first ever 11-a-side game was played in Newcastle and ended in an 8-2 win for the Hotscots. Three weeks later Newcastle Panthers went to Edinburgh for the return match, having worked hard on the things that they learned from the previous game.  This time, they won 4-3 which was an excellent result for a team that was only playing their second-ever 11-a-side match, and against a team that had been formed for over a year.


Since then, a number of GFSN teams have contacted us, with a games arranged against The Nottingham Ballbois and Birmingham Blaze, with others against London Falcons and Mersey Marauders in the process of being arranged.


Team kit sponsorship has been provided by www.fitlads.net who were very keen to support and encourage the team, especially as many of the team’s players are members of their website. The team is also in negotiations at the moment to gain a full team sponsorship for the 2008/ 2009 season.”

 

 

 

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