Lionesses dash home to their dogs and avoid waiting fans at Heathrow

The woman’s England football team, called the Lionesses, are glad to be home and reunited with their companion animals which, in the case of Millie Bright, the captain, and the forwards Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly means dog companions. They’ve posted pictures on their Instagram accounts showing themselves cuddling their pets.

Millie Bright and her long-haired Dachshund, Elsa.
Millie Bright and her long-haired Dachshund, Elsa. Image: Instagram

It seems to me that they were keener to get back to their companion animals than they were to be visible to their fans waiting in Heathrow because I’m told that the team left the airport through a back entrance!

You may have seen the pictures in Heathrow of fans waiting patiently behind the barriers in the early hours of the morning to greet their heroic Lionesses as they arrived from Australia at 7 AM.

Fans waiting to see the Lionesses but they never arrived.
Fans waiting to see the Lionesses but they never arrived. Image: AP.

But the fans were bitterly disappointed. The Times reports that they were devastated. They had brought signs with them to the arrivals area at Terminal 3. Some had even arrived at the terminal the evening before to get a prime spot from where they could see the Lionesses clearly.

There were about 40 fans gathered for the team’s arrival. And let’s not forget that many of them paid a lot of money for parking fees at Heathrow.

One fan, Joanne Bruce, 51, had travelled from Cambridgeshire at 10:30 PM the day before with her niece and sister. They wanted to be there at Heathrow to thank the Lionesses for all that they had achieved despite failing at the last hurdle in losing the final 1-0 to Spain. Spain by the way were the better team which was very clear in the final.

There are some great photographs of the footballers with their dogs. You can see Chloe Kelly with Otis and Rolo and Millie Bright with her long-haired dachshund puppy, Elsa, who was a gift for her 30th birthday on Monday from her partner. Daly shared pictures of her excited dog Dexi.

Fantastic. I’m so pleased that the Lionesses are with their beautiful dog companions. And I expect the dogs to be very happy too. But what about the fans? The fans who were so faithful to the Lionesses throughout the exciting tournament.

It seems extraordinary to me that they avoided them. Joanne Bruce said:

“We haven’t slept, we have just laughed and joked. It was just the three of us to start with. My sister was like ‘I really want to go early’.” She said that other fans didn’t come until about 4 o’clock in the morning. This was three hours before the team was due to land. Bruce’s parking ticket cost about £80, perhaps more she said.

A 10-year-old boy, Mason, had been waiting at Heathrow with his autograph book. He had travelled from nearby Hayes with his aunt Michelle Atkins according to other media reports.

Mason was close to tears when he was interviewed about the failure of the Lionesses to show up. He told the Daily Mail: “Everyone kept saying that they’re not coming out, they’re not coming out. I had belief that they were going to come out. And then when we finally heard that they are not coming out, actual confirmation, I was devastated because I wanted to see Mary [Earp, the goalkeeper] or Millie Bright because they did extremely well in the World Cup and I’m proud of them.”

The Times reports that it is understood that it is normal procedure for both the men’s and woman’s England teams to leave the airport through a private exit. The airport staff were apparently told to tell fans that the Lionesses were not going to appear.

I find that incredibly strange. Without fans, football is nothing. If the footballers can’t present themselves to the fans and engage with the fans then it seriously undermines football in my opinion. The whole of football is about fans. Very strange.

In contrast, the Spanish women’s football team arrived home on Monday to an ecstatic fan base. One of the team’s captain’s held the trophy aloft as she left the plane. The team posed for photographs with their coach and the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation. The team were holding their medals and chanting.

They then jumped into a private coach which drove past fans who had waited at the airport to cheer them. Quite a contrast don’t you think?

It seems to me that the Lionesses were keener to get back to their dogs than they were to see their fans. The team captain should have insisted that they engage with the fans on their arrival. It appears that they followed convention but convention isn’t enough. It needs to be changed.

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