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