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Is it ever OK to leave a football match early?

The great footy debate

Is it ever OK to leave a football match early?

Jurgen Klopp was upset when Liverpool fans left with the team 2-1 down during a recent match. Is it a cardinal sin to dash out? We asked a selection of experts...


Alex Christian (ShortList writer)

Let’s get one thing straight. There usually have to be exceptional circumstances to leave a game early. 1) The fire alarm’s gone off, 2) you’re at Wembley and you can’t face the two-hour queue for a Tube, or 3) you’re down by at least three goals with less than 10 minutes remaining. 

But let’s not forget: if you’ve bought a ticket you’re free to do as you please. That could be cheering, booing, staying or leaving. The team has a responsibility to keep you there by performing on the pitch. It’s not one-way traffic.

I’m sticking up for the little guy, those who’ve had to leave out of submission – games that would’ve been stopped by the ref had it been a boxing match. Each time I’ve done it I’ve missed Spurs conceding another goal. And I didn’t do what many do – slinking off to get home in time for The X Factor. Instead I’ve waited outside the ground until my mates had also had enough – when Spurs have let in yet another goal.

Dave Fawbert (ShortList writer)

In 99.9 per cent of occasions, it is not acceptable to ever leave a game early. Every argument in the box below I agree with. However, the one time I can let it pass is when the leaving of a game is used as a form of protest - to date I've done this two times in 21 years. Blackpool fans walking out in opposition to their owners - fine. And if you've followed your team (in my case Leyton Orient) 300 miles up the M6 to Carlisle and watched them meekly surrender to trail 4-1 with not even a faint hope of a comeback, then I think you're entitled to leave the ground a couple of minutes before the end, glowering at the players and making sure you make eye contact with the beleaguered manager to silently, but powerfully, make your point.

Having said that, a friend of mine managed to leave an Orient cup game ten minutes before the end - in fairness, to go to work on a night shift - with the team trailing 2-0 and a man down to boot. 40 minutes later, we'd triumphed 8-2, with six goals in extra time (an FA Cup record), which saw another three red cards and two hat-tricks. Perhaps it's best not to ever risk it, OK?


Ben Isaacs (ShortList writer)

There’s a reason that live sport is the greatest drama in the world – anything can happen. Yet at any Premier League match you’ll see fans head for the exits with the game on the line. You wouldn’t leave Spectre with 10 minutes to go, even knowing Bond will save the day. So why go home on 80 minutes when your team is a goal down?

Statistics show the most likely time for goals to happen is in the final five minutes of each half. So if you go to the loo/bar/station at these times there’s a strong chance you’ll miss a crucial goal.

But enough about you – what about your team? You’ve paid to watch the match, but you’re also there to support the players – that’s the deal. It’s hardly a morale boost to see you trudging off as they chase an equaliser or a winner.

You have to decide: are you a customer or a fan? Feel free to be a customer and leave whenever, but don’t ever try to pass yourself off as a fan. Maybe watch it on TV next time.

Phil Catchpole (BBC Three Counties Reporter)

A few years back, I went to watch my beloved Wycombe Wanderers take on Huddersfield Town on a bitterly cold Friday night in January.

After 69 minutes, the Chairboys were six nil down. Despite this tremendously depressing scoreline, the inclement weather and the fact it takes an hour to get out of Adams Park after the final whistle, I stayed to the bitter end.

When you consider the game was also televised, so I could have witnessed the sorry proceedings from the pub with full access to warming and mind numbing spirits, it appears to be strange decision. Not a bit of it. People should never leave a game early.