Make a stand -- empty the stands!

What can poor fans do? I mean poor in the sense of sad, pathetic, useless, hopeless, not poor in the sense of having no money. For we fans have loads of money -- how else would we afford to go to games, afford to have Sky and Sultana, and ESPN and S4C?

The latter is a Welsh channel I somehow tuned in to last week to watch Chelsea. They were at home in the FA Cup -- but against Cardiff. It was all in Welsh, but unlike on real foreign stations, which have their funny foreign ways with English names, their pronunciations were perfect.

From about 1888, we poor fans have been carrying banners protesting about the stupidity of directors and the greed of players. And has it done any good? Has it, buggery. I joined all the protests when Carlisle United fans were furious that their beloved club had fallen into the hands of Michael Knighton. Yes, he went in the end, but thanks to his own uselessness. I signed various petitions to save The Shelf, part of the terraces at Spurs that had been loved by fans for about a hundred years -- but it did no good.

What is so interesting about the green-and-gold protest (the one with Man United fans wearing the old colours of Newton Heath, do concentrate) is that it is not basically a campaign of hate. Well, it is, as the fans hate the Glazers, but they have cleverly angled their campaign so it appears to be one of love and affection, of nostalgia and tradition, so that even those blindly loyal, uncritical fans who might not relish any sort of anti-club protest can join in.

I am fascinated by the campaign, as I love anything that involves football history, and am cheered by its success, but will it work? Will it, heckers. The Glazers will sell out in their own good time - presumably when it is financially advantageous to them, not necessarily to Man United or their fans.

Anyway, if they're just chancers, well, God knows we have enough of them ourselves. If it was so easy, we would all be doing it. Fans have only one true tool in their locker -- and that is not to turn up. I mean completely not turn up, so that the ground is totally empty, for game after game, till the fans get whatever it is they say they want.

With a big Prem team, it would work pretty quickly, as Sky abhors a vacuum. It couldn't bear to see 40,000 empty seats and have no sound, no atmosphere, so it would soon bring pressure on the club. The club itself would hardly care, not at first. After all, these days almost every seat has been paid for in advance, sometimes a whole year in advance, as poor sad fans now get conned into buying their season ticket in the spring, before one season has even finished.

It would just take a few empty stadiums, and the loss of fat profits from the programmes, club shop, smoked-salmon bagels and plastic coffee, plus Sky leaning on them, to make clubs realise that their fans are really really upset and really mean it.

Wouldn't it be great if fans could mobilise themselves to take this ultimate step? In this internet age, it could be possible; something similar has been tried in pop music to thwart a hated mogul. It will be tried, one day. Can't wait.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 February 2010 issue of the New Statesman, IRAN

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.