• The England Lionesses returned home from the FIFA World Cup at London Heathrow Airport, but waiting fans were left upset as they did not come out through the main arrivals exit.
  • According to the Football Association, the team's private exit was a longstanding protocol for both men's and women's teams after major tournaments, but some social media users criticized the decision.
  • Supporters defended the team, emphasizing that they had already given their all during the World Cup and were likely exhausted after a long flight, stating that the team did not owe them a public appearance.

Despite having a historical FIFA World Cup run this year by making it through to the finals against Spain's La Roja, the Lionesses from England suffered a near-miss on the gold as they were defeated for silver 1-0. But even in defeat, England fans were proud of what the Lionesses had achieved and were anxiously waiting to show their support.

Dozens of supporters, both young and old, and with numerous hand-made banners, were waiting at London Heathrow Airport's (LHR) arrival area for the team to arrive from Australia with hopes of seeing them in person. But after many hours of waiting, fans were left significantly disappointed when not a single Lioness was seen.

Flying home from Sydney

The Lionesses' journey home after the World Cup began on Monday as fans applauded them while walking through Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD) to board their flight. The team also signed autographs and took pictures with these fans, despite the low emotions still being significantly raw. After departing from Sydney, their flight would have a stopover at Singapore's Changi International Airport.

After a short stop in Singapore, the Lionesses were flown home to London and were expected to arrive Tuesday morning at around 06:20. As their flight number got leaked out on social media, numerous supporters in the UK decided to begin camping at Heathrow Airport's arrival hall since Monday night in anticipation for the team's arrival. And as the hours went by into Tuesday morning, a couple of lines began to form.

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Going through a private exit

And within these small lines filled with fans of all ages were plenty of hand-made banners and posters, and parking fees were slowly racking up with each passing minute nearing and past the flight's expected arrival time. The long wait would initially seem to have played off once fans saw former England defender Alex Scott walking through arrivals and the team's luggage.

A British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Landing At London Heathrow Airport.
Photo: Markus Mainka | Shutterstock

But this excitement would eventually dissolve into disheartenment after airport staff told them that the Lioneesses were not coming out through the main arrivals exit. In fact, these fans would also be informed that the anticipated team had already left through a private exit. It's currently uncertain if this information was relayed to the waiting fans much earlier or only after the flight landed and the team left.

Following standard protocol

While there could have been a variety of reasons as to why the Lionesses took the private exit, the official reason came from the Football Association - as it highlighted that this was a longstanding protocol as neither the men's nor women's teams travel through the main arrivals after major tournaments like the World Cup.

The association also emphasized that regardless of the final's result, the Lionesses would still not have gone through the main arrivals to receive their possible standing ovation if they won. But even with this official explanation of a safety protocol, many users on social media began calling the women's team a disgrace for refusing to meet their supporters.

Others have refuted these negative comments, reminding them there was already an official procedure and suggesting that the Lionesses would be exhausted after a more than 18-hour flight - regardless of the cabin class they flew on. And since there was no official meet-and-greet event, the team did not owe them anything, especially after the rollercoaster they had just gone through during the World Cup.

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Bottom line

Considering many celebrities, significant public figures, and sports teams often head through private entrances or exits; it's more expected that the Lionesses would do the same - specifically since it's already been a confirmed, well-established protocol and there was no official fan meeting in place.

Source: SkyNews

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