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Ben Hayes - Charlton Athletic programme

Fans have more power than they think

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This article has been contributed by Dean Machin:

It is often said that a football club belongs to its fans. And it is not uncommon for the actual owners to utter these words as a way of encouraging the fans to part with more of their money. Whether this money is invested in the club, used to pay off debts, or siphoned off is never clear.

To the fans – football clubs metaphorical owners – how their club is run is often a mystery. In fact, in the case of my team (Coventry) who owns it is a mystery.

But fans have real power. For example: attendances of 8000 per game, over 23 home games, at £20 a ticket, equals £3.7 million. This is not enough to run a football club. But it is more than enough to make the owners listen.

Here’s what we can do. First, stop going to games. Second, set up a collective piggy bank and pay what we would have paid for tickets into that. The great thing about this is that even those who don’t go to games can pay in something. Third, say to the owners we will keep doing this until you leave or change. Even the threat of this may be enough for some clubs.

Fans could give the money to their club eventually – in return for some cast-iron guarantees about future behaviour. Alternatively, once the club has changed everyone can have their money back.  Or, in the worst case, the money can be given to the owners to leave. We would only have given them the money anyway – but with no strings attached.

Of course, mobilizing enough people is a problem but with some publicity, the internet, and a trusted front-man it could work.

In the short-term there are costs: attendances would drop, and players would be sold. But we fans have to stop thinking about next week, and think about where our club will be in ten years time. Will there be a club for our children and our grand-children?

I reckon all we need is one club in dire straits whose fans are desperate. They should give it a go and see what happens. By the way, did I mention that I am a Coventry City fan?