4 November ~ There are thousands of forums, message boards and fan sites encouraging debate about a multitude of football-related subjects. Yet fans rarely take the time to make their voice heard in a place that might ultimately improve the game. At the website epetitions.direct.gov.uk you can create an e-petition about anything for which the government is responsible. Any that receive at least 100,000 signatures will be eligible for debate in the House of Commons. Football is well represented, at least in the number of petitions (53 at the time of writing), if not in active support for them.
The recent parliamentary debate about the Hillsborough disaster showed the power of the e-pedition. But it is surprising that football fans have not used this tool to better effect more often. Typing "football" in to the search box results in a plethora of petitions. They range from the contentious (sectarianism and the anti-English culture), to the heartfelt (public exams of summer 2014 to finish before the World Cup) and the wishful (make our game beautiful again). Some of the petitions have very little support. Unsurprisingly, "abolish penalty kicks during normal play" has just one signature. Others that you might expect to attract strong support, such as regulation of football ticket prices, have only a smattering of signatures.
The most supported petition is "reduce VAT to five per cent for watching and playing football and all sport". At the time of writing it has attracted 2,753 signatures. This is a little worrying in that it has until February 2012 to reach 100,000 or it will fail. If a proposal that benefits supporters financially and encourages the next generation of fans into grounds can only get 2.7 per cent of the signatures required, what chance does "make all sport free" have?
The petition for "safe standing at football stadiums" has encouraged only 30 supporters, and ten days later an opposing petition was listed. "Ban the return of standing terraces in football grounds" has since attracted 74 supporters. Both have been listed for just over a month, so there's still time to get behind them. There are similar petitions concerning players' wages and the availability of football on free-to-air channels. Keeping some football (and other sports) free to view is commonly discussed in the media so you would expect one of these petitions to be closing in on the big 100,000 and yet combined they have only attracted 842 names.
This lack of support for football-related topics could in part be due to scepticism about what your vote can accomplish. Simply having a topic debated in parliament is no guarantee that anything will change, but apathy in football fans is probably more down to lack of awareness than a lack of opinions. After all, being a football fan is all about opinions, as shown in the terrace song about the identity of "the greatest football team the world has ever seen". Log on and have a look around. The right e-petition is probably waiting for you. Chris Emblem