Are you one of those people who feels deeply hurt when you log on to check your e-mail and find that your mailbox is empty? If so, just sign up to a football mailing list and your troubles will soon be over.

These lists allow football supporters to conduct a running e-mail debate about the state of their favourite club, speculate on the latest transfer rumours, and in general have a good old whinge if things are not going particularly well on the pitch.

No doubt that as you read this, thousands of people in offices across the country are busily ploughing through their e-mail and offering their opinions about last Saturday's results.

The big clubs like Manchester United, Newcastle United and Liverpool have lively lists, but they are particularly useful for those of us who support the less successful sides, be they in the Premiership or the Beazer Homes League. If the newspapers fail to provide a match report for your favourite club, the mailing list will more than likely have one not long after the final whistle.

The lists also serve as a lifeline to expats all over the world. But even if you are, say, a Sheffield Wednesday supporter who lives in Surrey, they are an invaluable way to keep up with your club's efforts. What's more, members of the lists often arrange pub meetings for both home and away matches, and some even organise transportation for their fellow travelling supporters.

But most of all the lists offer the diehard supporters the opportunity to express their opinions. And since the people who participate in the lists are computer literate, the level of debate is often quite high. However, it is not uncommon for a cyberhooligan to infiltrate an enemy list just to wind up the other participants with inflammatory postings or malicious rumours about the star striker's consumption of pies.

But in general, it is mostly just harmless fun. And, who knows? Some well-connected club managers or even players might be reading the lists. If so, expect to see some interesting tests of the libel laws in the near future.

Signing up to a mailing list usually involves nothing more than sending an e-mail to the list's address with the word "subscribe" in the subject field. The best place to find the address for a particular club's mailing list and how to go about joining it is through Rec.Sport.Soccer - The Web Page ( sports/lists). So sign on!