What is going on with football fans these days? The thought occurred following West Ham's recent 6-0 defeat against Arsenal at the London Stadium.

West Ham were four down at half time, igniting a mass exodus from the ground. Every time a goal went in more people headed for the exits. By the end of the game, the stadium was less than half full.

Ok, the fans were disappointed and could see no way back. But leave?

Many is the game over the years, when fans crammed into the old Upton Park. The days when much of the attendance was standing. Few would leave, no matter what the score.

Now, things have only got to start going the wrong way and some fans are on their way back to Westfield.

So have the fans changed? Back in the 1970s and 80s, fans would queue for hours just to get in.
Yet today, lots of fans routinely turn up late and leave early. Lots go early to get refreshments at half time. Amazingly, many leave early, with the result of the match very much in the balance.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Paul Donovan reminisces about West Ham's days playing at Upton ParkPaul Donovan reminisces about West Ham's days playing at Upton Park

Then, there is the posing. It seems a priority for fans today to take selfies of themselves with the stadium providing the backdrop. In short, there seem to be quite a lot of fans today whose least concern is the football.

And, it is not just West Ham. The managers of other teams have commented on the lack of atmosphere and passion - the failure of the fans to get behind the team.

So have things changed? Well, the cost certainly has - most of those attending will be paying upwards of £50 for a ticket. Even, in these inflationary times, the cost of attending a football match has far outstripped rises in the cost of living.

Many of those who used to attend football have been priced off the terraces. Have the middle classes taken over - maybe?

Yet, the transformation in football since the advent of the Premier League has been dramatic.

The game is more popular than ever, helped by the mass TV exposure. It is safer and more comfortable to attend. It is also more of a family entertainment, with men, women and children attending.  The growth of women's football has been a breath of fresh air. So plenty of positives.

No doubt, things ain't what they used to be and that in many ways is a good thing. The violence that marred football matches in the past has practically been eradicated. The game has become a trailblazer, rather than a backwater when it comes to confronting racism, sexism and homophobia.

The worry has to be whether the modern game has lost some of its soul. Is it still for working people? Is the loyalty and passion of the football supporter still there? Everyone will have an opinion but one thing for sure is that the game is changing.

Paul Donovan is Labour councillor for Wanstead Village ward, Redbridge Council and a blogger (paulfdonovan.blogspot.com).