As Sky Sports cameras focused on the hundreds of West Ham fans pouring out of the London Stadium, with their team trailing 4-0 before the half-time whistle, commentator Rob Hawthorne joked: “The station Stratford train is going to be busy shortly.’
In years past, quitting a game early elicited a grimace of disgust and a shake of the head from those around you. If enough people could be seen flocking to the exits, then chants of “we can see you slip away” would arise from opposition fans. Nowadays, the hum of shame is there to capture your departure.
There is an unwritten rule in football that says: To be a “true” fan, you must stay until the end, no matter what. Even if your team is being humiliated, even if you feel like they aren’t trying, and even if it’s painful to watch. That’s without taking into account the length of the trip home. There are many things in football that don’t make sense and this notion is one of them.
When you pay for a football ticket, you don’t sign a contract that stipulates that you must remain in your seat until the final whistle. The logical argument is that once you have paid your money, for some it will be hundreds of pounds, you can do whatever you want. If you want to avoid the traffic, make sure you take the last train home or you’re just sick of what you’re seeing – no one will force you to stay.
Yet football fans across the country are having the same internal dialogue, weighing: “Should I stay or should I go?” His team is down 4-0. There is no way back. It makes sense to leave early. But fans struggle with a sense of guilt. It’s not just the players they’re abandoning.
Sky Sports footage captured West Ham fans leaving their game against Arsenal before half-time.
There were empty seats scattered around the London stadium during West Ham’s 6-0 thrashing of the Gunners.
After a dismal first half, many West Ham fans headed for the exits.
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After a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in 2015, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he felt “pretty lonely” after many of his supporters left Anfield in the 82nd minute.
“We will decide when it will end,” Klopp said at the time. “Between 82 and 94 (minutes) you can score eight goals if you want.” Liverpool fans were less willing to leave in subsequent years.
You only have to look at their 4-3 win over Fulham earlier this season to see that Klopp was right. His team trailed 3-2 with three minutes left in regulation before two spectacular late goals.
Leaving a match early carries an element of risk, as you could miss out on a memorable comeback – just ask the Newcastle fans who walked out when they were trailing Arsenal 4-0 at half-time in 2011, only for their team to score. four goals in the second half. .
“I felt worse at full-time than I did at half-time,” Newcastle fan Mike Harrison said at the time, after admitting he had left at half-time. ‘I’m ashamed of myself. I will never doubt the Toon spirit again.’
There is this idea that you only have the right to enjoy the good times if you endure the bad.
Maybe it depends on how bad the performance is. In the case of West Ham on Sunday, fans would have a right to feel there was a lack of effort. That’s what hurts the followers the most. If the players want the fans to stay until the end, then they must continue playing until the final whistle.
James Jones, co-host of the We Are West Ham podcast, told Mail Sport. “The fans didn’t expect to beat Arsenal, but we did expect the team to compete.
‘A fan’s loyalty is shown in the moment they spend their hard-earned money to buy a ticket, not in the moment they decide to leave the game. Loyalty is a two-way street. Fans pay their money and expect effort, desire and loyalty in return. West Ham fans got nothing for their money apart from the shame of losing a London derby in such a humiliating manner.
Maybe it depends on what time you are heading out. Is it more acceptable to leave in the 80th minute than in the 45th minute? “Don’t consider yourself a true fan of a club if you leave a game at half-time,” said Chris Sutton on our It’s All Kicking Off podcast.
‘If you’re a football fan, you support your team through thick and thin, right? What did Jock Stein say? Football is nothing without fans. Show appreciation to the players at the end of the game.
What about the length of your trip home? Is a one-hour trip an acceptable reason to get out of trouble, or does it have to be two?
“I don’t blame anyone for leaving early,” said Harvey Whetstone, who left in the 80th minute.
Some Newcastle fans confessed that they left when their team were losing 4-0 to Arsenal in 2011. The Magpies fought back to secure a 4-4 draw.
“I don’t think people take into account how difficult it is to get back to Stratford after a game and on Sundays there are often problems with the trains.”
But for any fans planning to leave at half-time in the future, the story of playwright and Liverpool fan Nicky Allt demonstrates the value of standing out, even if it wasn’t your intention.
With Liverpool trailing 3-0 in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, Allt attempted to fight his way to the exit.
“I tried to get off the floor, but a big Turkish waiter pushed me inside.
“I probably owe him a lot of money.”