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Blackpool Panthers RLFC are an Englishmarker professional rugby league team based in Lytham St Annesmarker, Lancashiremarker. They play at Woodlands Memorial Groundmarker owned by Fylde rugby union club. They are sponsored by Perrymann Technical Services and currently play in Co-operative Championship 1.

Blackpool Borough to Blackpool Gladiators (1898-1993)

A Blackpool club were members of the Northern Union Lancashire Second Competition in 1898-99.

The first unsuccessful application for a Blackpool team to join the Rugby League was made by in December 1950. Blackpool Borough were accepted into the Rugby League for the 1954-55 season.

In April 1987 they relocated to Springfield Parkmarker in Wiganmarker and changed name to Springfield Borough. Despite good performances on the field the move was not successful and the club played as Chorley Borough in the 1988-1989 season.

The club then became Trafford Borough when they moved to Moss Lanemarker, Altrinchammarker which they shared with Altrincham football club, in the 1989-90 season. This, however, caused a boardroom split leading to five Blackpool-based directors resigning to form a new club based in Chorley who after multiple moves and several name changes would end up as Blackpool Panthers. The original Trafford Borough later moved to Blackpool as Blackpool Gladiators before relegation to the amateur ranks. Their last game as a professional club was on 11 April 1993.

A new club formed - Chorley Borough (1990-1995)

The newly formed Chorley side were based at Chorley FC's ground Victory Parkmarker. Ironically their first game was against Trafford Borough in the Lancashire Cup in front of 628 spectators. The record attendance at Victory Park was 2,851 for the visit of Oldham in January 1990. Chorley's initial club colours were black and white hooped shirts.

The club became Chorley Borough in the 1991-92 season. Chief Executive Maurice Lindsay wanted to reduce the number of clubs in the lower division of the league in 1993. The three clubs finishing bottom of the second division would be demoted to the National Conference League. It went to the wire with Blackpool Gladiators and Nottingham City already relegated, the crucial last match at Nottingham on 12th April 1993, between Nottingham City and Highfield saw Highfield win 39-6 and Highfield survived at the expense of Chorley. The three expelled clubs, pursued legal action against the RFL decision, but to no avail. Chorley regained their status in the professional ranks in 1995-96 when they became Chorley Chieftains. They were the only club elected to the league from the National Conference League.

The club were taken over by the owners of Chorley FC, as part of Victory Park Holdings, and become known as Chorley Magpies after the nickname of the football club. The club also started an alliance and academy side. In February 1996, the coach, Bob Eccles was dismissed and former New Zealand international player and Salford Reds coach, Kevin Tamati was appointed as part-time manager.

Lancashire Lynx (1996-2000)

In 1996 they were bought by Preston North End football club and they moved to Deepdalemarker stadium. They became Lancashire Lynx at the start of 1997 after a short non-playing spell as Central Lancashire. Tamati gave up his post as Rugby League development officer with Warrington Borough Councilmarker to become full-time coach with the Lynx on 31 October, 1997.

Lancashire Lynx reached the final of the Anglo-French Treize Tournoi in 1998 and finished top of the Second Division. Tamati was released by Lynx at end of the 1998 season, after failing to agree a new contract. Former Wigan player, Steve Hampson took over as coach in 1999.

In 2000, Lynx won just one of their 19 league games, conceding over 900 points. The club had lost their last two games by a record 98-4 to Keighley Cougars and 72-13 to Dewsbury Rams. Hampson left by "mutual consent" in May 2000. And at the end of the season, the Preston North End backers withdrew from running Lancashire Lynx, and only the last-minute intervention of Trevor Hemmings saved the club from folding.

Chorley Lynx (2000-2004)

The club was sold on 6 October, 2000 to Chorley Sporting Club Ltd which also included Chorley FC. The clubs name was changed again, this time to Chorley Lynx and they returned to Victory Park. Former Wigan player and coach, Graeme West was appointed as coach. In January 2001, Chorley were eliminated in the third round of the Challenge Cup following a shock 22-8 defeat to National Conference League amateur club Woolston Rovers. It was the clubs 30th straight defeat.

Darren Abram took over as coach after the resignation of Graeme West in November 2002. In 2003 they finished second in National League Two. However, Abram left to join Leigh Centurions.

At the end of the 2004 season Chorley Lynx folded due to poor attendances and the withdrawal of funding by backer Trevor Hemmings. They were losing £1,000 a week with an average crowd of just 434 with only London Skolars and Gateshead Thunder having lower average crowds. Their last match was at home to York City Knights.

Blackpool Panthers (2004 onwards)

Blackpool West Coast Panthers were created in 2004 for the 2005 season, supposedly as a separate club rather than the continuation of Chorley Lynx. However, the 25-man squad contained 16 former Chorley players, the coach Mark Lee had been coach of Chorley and most of the supporters were those who had previously followed Chorley. Blackpool agreed an initial two year tenancy of Bloomfield Roadmarker, the home of Blackpool F.C. and they were elected to National League Two for the 2005 season. The original Chairman quit before the season started leaving Dave Rowland in charge. Coach Mark Lee was sacked before the start of the season and Simon Knox was appointed on a 12-month contract. Blackpool struggled on the field finishing second bottom of National League Two and failed to make an impact on the Blackpool public, with attendances averaging under 400.

In September 2005 Dave Rowland, who had resigned from the Board of Directors but remained the clubs majority shareholder, put forward a proposal to relocate the Panthers to Prestonmarker where they would ground share with Preston Grasshoppers rugby union club. However, the board bought out former major shareholder Dave Rowland's stake in the club and a last minute deal saw them secure the use of Bloomfield Road at a reduced rent. And at a public meeting held at Bloomfield Road in October 2005, former chairman of Leeds Rhinos, Alf Davies warned the club and its fans that it could take up to five years to establish the club in the resort. Davies who had been appointed by the Rugby Football League to help the new Panthers' Board of Directors revitalise the club said, ""It will be a hell of a struggle and it will take five years before you can say you are established in rugby league, but if directors hold their nerve it can be done." The club also confirmed that they were working on a plan to develop links with local schools.

The 2006 season was again a difficult one for Blackpool as they finished bottom of National League Two, winning only four games. In June and July three games were played at Fyldes Woodlands Memorial Ground in Lytham St Annes as Bloomfield Road was being reseeded. The Panthers beat Keighley Cougars and Workington Town but lost to Gateshead Thunder. In October 2006 a contract was signed to move to Woodlands Memorial Ground for an initial period of six years, covering the seasons from 2007 to 2012. The club's administrative and commercial base also moved to Woodlands, with Panthers' Chairman, John Chadwick, saying, "We're looking for stability and a base from which we can establish the Panthers as a successful national league club operating from the Fylde Coast. The set-up at the ground is first rate.

Andy Gregory took control of the Panthers in June 2007 when they were bottom of National League Two and had not won for 25 matches. However, Gregory resigned after the club finished the entire season without managing a single win, becoming only the fourth professional sports club to have suffered that fate in the United Kingdommarker. Former Ireland international, Martin Crompton was appointed as coach at the end of the 2007 season. The club finally ended their losing streak, which had lasted two years and 45 matches, on 6 April, 2008, when they beat Workington Town 24-20. They had not won a match since beating Gateshead Thunder 38-36 on 15 July, 2006, with the run being made up of 32 National League Two matches, 12 Northern Rail Cup matches and two Carnegie Challenge Cup matches. It was the club's first win under coach Martin Crompton. In May 2008 they won back-to-back matches for only the second time in the club's history, beating Hunslet Hawks and then a week later, seventh-placed Swinton Lions 30-28 prompting Martin Crompton to target the league play-offs saying after the Swinton victory, "The play-offs have always been the goal. That victory was a fantastic achievement against a quality team. Everyone is playing with confidence now.

On 12 July 2009 the Panthers won their first trophy, when they won the inaugural Northern Rail Nines beating Sheffield Eagles 14-10 in the final at Bloomfield Road.

2009 Squad

No Nat Player Position Former Club
1 Jonny Leather Full Back Blackpool Panthers
2 Damien Munro Wing Halifax RLFC
3 Tom Woodcock Centre Blackpool Panthers
4 Mark McCully Centre
5 Chris Mugan Wing Blackpool Panthers
6 Simon Svabic Stand Off Rochdale Hornets
7 Chris Forster Scrum Half Blackpool Panthers
8 Pete Fairhurst Prop Blackpool Panthers
9 John Clough Hooker Blackpool Panthers
10 John Hill Prop
11 Paul Alcock Second Row
12 Kris Ratcliffe Second Row Blackpool Panthers
13 Rob Draper Loose Forward Widnes Vikings
14 Martin Keavney Hooker
15 Mel Alker Loose Forward Blackpool Panthers
16 Ian Hodson Second Row Oldham Roughyeds
17 David Llewellyn Prop
18 John Boland Second Row Wigan Warriors
19 Liam McGovern Scrum Half
20 Tom Wild Second Row
21 Andy Marsh Stand Off
22 Keiron Tucker fullback
23 Darryl Kay Second Row
24 Chris Campbell Hooker
25 Wes Lawton Prop London Skolars
26 Gareth Langley Centre Oldham Roughyeds


Honours



References



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