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Make Your Case: Are Sunderland fans right or wrong for leaving games early?

Since Saturday's home defeat to Stoke City much has been made in the national media of Sunderland's supporters opting to leave the Stadium early when it appeared that the game was already over. Whilst we can agree that ticket payers are well within their rights to do so, are those that leave games early doing the right thing?

Sunderland v Southampton - FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Rory - Right!

As Peter Crouch nodded the game out of sight on Saturday I stared at the people heading for exits. I would usually scorn and tut at such actions but this time I envied their conviction.

If this was an anomaly then you'd be right to deride anyone who leaves the game with so long to go. It isn't though. Over our current Premier League stint, we've seen such collapses far too often. The first half 4-0 capitulation to Aston Villa is usually held up as the best example but I think Stoke trumped it. If I was to challenge anyone on the decision to head for the exit they'd probably just have simply responded with “why not?” And I wouldn't really have an argument to that, as it was the first time I had ever thought about doing it myself.

You can argue that we should all stay and get behind the lads, which is a valid point, but as I said, many of us have stayed and got behind them in these situations. There has to be a limit, a breaking point. If I was thinking of leaving early for the first time ever, then I'd wager that many of the people who did were doing it for the first time as well. By showing such dissatisfaction, those supporters are probably making more of a statement than I did, by just sitting there and mumbling about the teams ineptitude.

Sunderland v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

The “we work hard and pay our money to watch this” argument is usually said by that boring old fella who sits behind you. It's true though, and far too often we're having to be repeatedly punched in the face and pay a decent wedge for the privilege. I know supporting Sunderland is never really going to be value for money but there's only so many sucker punches a person can take. It's not ideal but sometimes, literally, making a stand is the only power you have. Yes, it probably won't have changed anything but neither would just sitting there and taking the punches, ala Homer Simpson when he becomes a boxer because he discovers he can handle being thwacked over and over again. That's how it feels to support Sunderland right now and it looks like our final fight - where we finally get found out - is coming up. There'll be no Moe Syzlack to fly in and save us either, unless his lookalike pulls off another miracle.

I just can't have a go at anyone who decided enough was enough at 3-0. If it was 2-0 and we were battling, then maybe chucking it would be hasty. But 3-0. Against a team in mid-table who are struggling for form? Nah. It's becoming all too familiar.

Gav - Wrong!

People pay their money and are well within their rights to get up and leave a game whenever they want. I completely understand that - I just don't really agree with it.

For me, the influence of a vocal and supportive crowd can be pretty much the difference between a successful team and a poor one. Look back to last season for example, when ourselves here at Roker Report and our friends at A Love Supreme teamed together before the Everton game in May to encourage supporters to arrive early for the match, bring their colours and sing their hearts out. It was a massive success - there was a buzz around the stadium well before the game even started. Each and every supporter in the ground that day arrived with a positive mindset and got behind the side to ensure that we got the three points we required to avoid relegation.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

It is without doubt that the full, vocal crowd played its part that day - and it's sad that it doesn't happen often enough. If we had a half decent team it probably would, but you've got to take the rough with the smooth when you support a team like Sunderland.

So if we are going to note that the crowd played its part on that night against Everton, it would only be fair to point out that when the fans filter out of games early when the team probably needs us more than ever, it can be detrimental to our chances of getting back in to a game.

I'm not going to use the Stoke game as an example in isolation, because the ground empties whether we are winning or losing. At 3-0 up against Hull City the Stadium barely had 25,000 people in it when the final whistle went. I can sort of understand people leaving a game early if the football is shocking and we are being embarrassed, but I just cannot get my head around why it happens on the rare occasions that we win. I dunno - is this just a Sunderland thing, or do fans of other clubs do it too?

Regardless, it does somewhat dampen the experience of winning a game. It would be nice if our fantastic home support could come together more often in order to help the team to get back in to games where they are losing and our support is needed.

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