Cinemagoers are not regarded as fairweather for walking out of a dud early. So we should not criticise football fans for the same
: MatchDay Images Limited/Dan Weir
Three things might keep you inside a stadium when your team is losing heavily: Hope, fear or novelty. Novelty if this is a day out with result secondary to overall experience and number of train tins consumed. Hope if you have even a glimmer of belief that your team might turn it around. Fear, therefore, that if they do you will miss a famous comeback. Fear too of judgement, that leaving a game prematurely makes you a lesser supporter.
And so to a rote response which has endured for generations: leaving a stadium before full-time is unacceptable and something no “true fan” would consider. Increasingly that feels like a moral code from another time. For one thing, none of the early cut critics ever had to make their way back to Stratford station via woeful signage and retail hellscape of Westfield. That is a trying experience at the best of times, but one thousands of West Ham fans chose rather than sticking around to see their disembowelling by Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. Ticket-holding West Ham supporters, among them James Corden, had better things to do with their Sunday than watching this West Ham team.
An air of fatal apathy
“Thank you for your support, have a safe journey home,” was the curt goodbye from London Stadium announcer Chris Scull after the final whistle. He sounded annoyed he had been forced to stick it out. By then his audience was perhaps a 10th of the sell-out crowd whose afternoon began in cautiously optimistic mood. The exodus began when Bukayo Saka made it 2-0 from the penalty spot with five minutes left in the first half. Its status was upgraded from “we can see you sneaking out” to “is there a fire drill?” after Gabriel scored Arsenal’s third in the final minute before half-time.
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