Mascots are a crucial part of any sports team. They are a visual representation of the players’ strength, skill, and determination.
Clubs all around the world often utilise images from the animal kingdom to intimidate opponents and engage with fans.
And the latest arrival on the mascot scene in UK rugby is the Panther, adopted by five-time Cup winners Halifax as their new official nickname.
The Panthers join a league that also includes other big cats, such as Lions and Tigers.
However, away from the field, the reality for many of these creatures is less positive. The animals behind the brands are often endangered, under threat or even totally extinct.
As part of the rebrand, the newly named Halifax Panthers club has conducted research into the threats facing big cats and other animals that represent sports teams as mascots.
Panthers in peril
Panthers are strong, ferocious creatures that represent the perfect new mascot for a rugby team like Halifax, while NFL outfit Carolina also utilise the black cat in their identity.
Part of the big cat family, panthers have been at risk of extinction for many years.
There are just 120-130 Florida panthers left in the wild, which is a result of a loss of habitat¹, with roads and houses being built on sites where they used to make their homes.
With a capacity of 12,000 at Halifax’ Shay Stadium home, it’d be possible to fit all of the world’s Florida panthers into the ground 100 times over.
Big cat rescue
Other big cats that are utilised as team mascots include lions and tigers. Football teams Aston Villa and Chelsea, and rugby team Bath, are among the major sporting brands represented by a fearless lion.
But with just 20,000 left in the wild, these big cats are now officially classified as ‘vulnerable’², while another animal that is well represented in sport, the tiger, is also seeing its numbers dwindle at an alarming rate.
While around 100,000 tigers were recorded in the wild at the start of the 20th century, that number has since dwindled to just 3,900 in the wild².
Support your local mascot!
Halifax Panthers media and marketing director Lee Kenny said: “When we decided to become the Halifax Panthers, we set out to showcase the strength, determination and agility of our team.
“It is interesting to note the clear prevalence of big cats and other endangered animals being used to represent sporting teams, and we felt that there is some responsibility on our part to do what we can to help protect them.
“Through this campaign, we’re aiming raise awareness of the risks faced by many of our favourite sporting mascots in the wild, while we are also encouraging our fans to sponsor a big cat to show their support for the newly named team.
“Hopefully we can do the mighty panther proud – on and off the field!”
Caught on camera
To mark the launch of the club’s new nickname, the Panthers released a series of spoof CCTV videos depicting the animal prowling recognisable landmarks of Halifax’s town centre.
The ‘story’ was picked up by local and national press and provoked an excited reaction from people all across the UK.
As part of the campaign, members of the Halifax playing squad have each pledged to sponsor a big cat for the club’s first season as the Panthers.
Sponsor a panther, or another big cat, and do your bit to support animal conservation: https://thebigcatsanctuary.org/cats/