One of the most popular football cliches is that the game ultimately belongs to the fans. 

It is we who are the custodians of its heart and soul. We are the caretakers of its well-being.

Amidst all of the rampant commerciality and the multi-million pound deals, it is our moral barometer that keeps the beautiful game on the straight and narrow. 

After all, when club owners are long gone, we will remain, our investment a lifelong and emotional one. 

A club therefore is nothing but an idea without its bricks and mortar – or more accurately these days, glass and steel – along with its legion of loyal, devoted supporters.

Such somewhat syrupy sentiments may well have an element of truth to them, and that has been the case for a long, long time now, but in recent years another axiom has emerged, one that has comprehensively usurped the notion that football fans matter on any meaningful level. 

That new truth is that nobody in power, or positions of influence, listens to a single word we say anymore. As for caring about our concerns? Be real. 

Perhaps, to an extent, it has always been thus, even back in the days when clubs were owned by local businessmen and the game’s governing bodies was made up of stuffy old blazers, who may have had Napoleonic egos but at least maintained a modicum of respect for the masses. 

Back then fans were probably still an after-thought but crucially newspapers had the power to hold clubs to account, and newspapers tended to have their reader’s best interests at heart in those days.

It was perfectly possible therefore for a club to commit to an unpopular initiative, then backtrack following a few days’ worth of critical back pages.

And at least too, prior to football mushrooming into the ginormous, self-contained entity it is today we had the ability to protest with our feet.  

Let’s say a lower league club decided to switch their home fixtures to Friday nights, a move than angered its diehard contingent. 

Should their gate receipts subsequently nosedive by a couple of thousand that club would be impacted financially and significantly so. This would mean a swift return to Saturday kick-offs.

Can the same be said of today, with TV revenue making up so much of every club’s income, regardless of division? 

Our money will always matter but it no longer buys us any influence or has any bearing. None whatsoever.

Moreover, on the rare occasions when we insist on becoming part of the conversation, we are silenced.

Take Evertonians and their present ire at their club being docked an unprecedented ten points for breaching profit and sustainability rules.

It is a punishment viewed by many as being unduly harsh, a punishment that has placed the Toffees among the favourites in the sports betting to drop this term.

Yet when Everton supporters planned a protest at their next home game not only did the Premier League panic – as you would expect – but Sky did too, with talk of them reducing sound levels at Goodison Park for their televised coverage, even replacing the crowd noise with a pre-recorded version. 

Their excuse for such measures was a concern at breaking Ofcom regulations regarding offensive language but with no evidence that swearing would be deployed en masse that didn’t wash for many.

Instead, it was believed that Sky were protecting their ‘brand’, in doing so protecting the interests of their partner, the Premier League.

It was certainly notable how little the protests were mentioned in commentary.  

If this was a disturbing development we then come to the switching of Wolves vs Chelsea to Christmas Eve this year.

No fan wanted this. Furthermore, no viewer requested it either. For the match-goers meanwhile, it means that their festive plans are now severely compromised with travel arrangements on that particular day a serious issue. 

Yet that didn’t stop Sky from railroading the immensely unpopular fixture change through, despite social media being unusually unified in its condemnation of it – in times past, fans have been their own worst enemy in resorting to tribalism and point-scoring on such matters - and despite respected Supporter Trusts getting involved

Their voices fell on deaf ears. It’s as if we longer exist. 

Which has more pertinently than ever been the case since the pandemic, a moment in time that ironically is when supporters are said to have regained a foothold in importance within the sport. 

With matches being played in front of empty stands, our presence was sorely missed and repeatedly we found ourselves being patronised to the point of silliness. Indeed all the of the tropes from the opening few lines were trotted out on an almost daily basis. 

So how were we rewarded upon our return post-lockdown? By leading clubs attempting to form a Super League, that’s how, a move that threatened to be cataclysmic for English football.

The quick retreat made by the clubs in question has been wrongly attributed to the widespread fury of millions of supporters but the depressing truth is that our anger was factored in, accounted for. Easy to ignore. 

It was when the media and politicians raised their voices that the situation dramatically changed. 

Because ultimately they matter whereas we don’t. Indeed we seem to matter less and less with every passing year.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.