Take a look at 'modern football'. Ticket prices are rising, more games than ever are going down to the wire...and more fans than ever seem to be leaving games before they've finished.
Even at Anfield, where the fierce atmosphere is one of the most famed in the country, Jurgen Klopp had to take to the media after Sunday's defeat to not-quite ask what on earth was going on with the fans streaming out with a good ten minutes of play remaining.
Were Liverpool cruising to a comfortable win, with the fans deciding that it was safe to nip out early with the result assured? Nope. Were they getting absolutely thrashed, and the fans decided to leave early in disgust? No, not that either. They'd just gone 2-1 down at home to Palace. That's it. An eminently beatable team, a far from impossible comeback, and a large number of fans jumped ship when the team could've used the roar of a filled-to-capacity Anfield at their backs.
This isn't all about Liverpool fans though, they're just the team who happened to be in the headlines for it this week. There's a growing epidemic of fans leaving games early, and it's starting to get out of hand.
Is there a single good reason for leaving a match early? Almost everyone who goes to games knows someone who plans their entire day around leaving the ground with ten minutes to go, usually looking very proud and saying "well I'll beat the traffic, you see."
An open letter, then, to That Person:
Everybody thinks you're an idiot. There are a few people who don't hate you, but that's just because their main feeling toward you is one of contempt instead. We know that you think you're clever, just the same as we know you'll come back shaking your head next week after missing an 85th minute winner, whinging and asking 'what were the chances of that?!'
They were pretty high, pal. Just like they were last time. And the time before. You'd be forgiven for forgetting that though, given that your brain clearly melted down into an oleaginous grey paste years ago. That's pretty much the only explanation for you thinking that the most vital part of the match you just paid through the nose to watch is less important than shaving 20 minutes off your trip home, right?
If you're that desperate to be at home, then watch the game on your sofa. It's dead easy, it costs less than your ticket, and your seat can go to somebody who's actually going to use it like they're supposed to and, y'know, support the team.
The people who sit near you
You know what? It's okay to leave a bit early if your team's getting absolutely pasted. If you're a Newcastle fan who left when Sergio Aguero was subbed off after his fifth goal? Entirely understandable. You're 6-1 down, no hope of a comeback, and the man doing something special just left the pitch. There's nothing more to watch in that game!
The problem is the fan who does it habitually. 1-0 down with 20 minutes to go and not looking like scoring? They're off, never mind that you're just one moment of quality or madness away from bringing the match level and then going on for the win. The person who says at 2-2 in the last quarter of an hour - and this is an absolutely genuine quote - "oh, I'll just stick the radio on in the car and catch the highlights tonight if we score."
It's a waste of a ticket. To borrow a phrase, they are a mood hoover, who sucks all the fun and excitement out of an afternoon and replaces it with this dour faux-practicality, then leaves as soon as they've finished their daily whinging quota.
Maybe if more managers took a leaf out of Jurgen Klopp's book and started having little digs at the fans who leave early, there'd be fewer people doing it. But this is a fan issue first and foremost, so it's probably up to fans to take responsibility for this. Don't go tying people to their seats to keep them in the stadium or anything, but bring it up. Gently rib them for their bone-headed thought processes.
If you are the kind of person who's being talked about here...oh, what the point? They all stopped reading three paragraphs ago. Something about beating the traffic, probably.
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