To some it may sound faintly amusing: someone has a few drinks whilst watching England play in the World Cup; England lose, they get upset and take it out on their spouse/partner. To others, the whole idea of a link between domestic violence and the World Cup may just seem absurd – nothing more than another cheap newspaper headline.
But domestic violence related to the World Cup is all too real, and there is nothing at all amusing about it.
The connection between the World Cup and domestic violence has been noted for some time. I first came across it two World Cups ago in 2006, when England were playing in Germany. Home Office data released afterwards revealed that domestic violence surged by up to 31% on England’s match days. And it didn’t necessarily have anything to do with England losing – the biggest rise in reports of domestic violence to English and Welsh police was when England beat Paraguay 1-0.
And it was a similar story during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. For example, police in Staffordshire reported a 50 per rise in domestic violence call-outs on the day of England’s first game in the tournament against the USA. Later, Greater Manchester Police said that reports of domestic abuse increased by 16 per on the day England went out of the tournament, beaten 4-1 by Germany.
In 2013 researchers at Lancaster University carried out a study to establish whether empirical evidence existed to support the view that the World Cup could be associated with a rise in reported domestic abuse incidents, when viewed remotely via television. They analysed domestic abuse incidents reported to a police force in the North West of England across three separate tournaments, 2002, 2006, and 2010. The study found two statistically significant trends. First, a match day trend showed the risk of domestic abuse rose by 26 percent when the English national team won or drew, and a 38 percent increase when the national team lost. Second, a tournament trend was apparent, as reported domestic abuse incidents increased in frequency with each new tournament.
The evidence has not gone unnoticed, and efforts have been and are being made to deal with the issue. For example, on Sunday it was reported that police are issuing personal warnings to men and women with a record of domestic violence in the run-up to England’s first World Cup game this weekend. In Essex, police are putting on extra patrols during and after England’s first match and placing domestic violence intelligence teams in police control rooms. In Lancashire billboards in Blackpool, Blackburn and Preston will tell domestic abuse offenders to: “Leave the striking to the players.”
Hopefully, these and other initiatives will reverse the trend and the forthcoming tournament can be peacefully enjoyed by football lovers and their families alike.
If, however, you are the victim of domestic violence then there are legal steps that you can take to protect yourself. Firstly, and certainly in an emergency, you can contact the police. If a crime has been committed then criminal proceedings can be taken against the perpetrator. Secondly, you can apply to a civil court for an injunction order against the perpetrator, forbidding them from molesting you, or even requiring them to leave or keep away from your home. For further advice you should contact a specialist family lawyer. If you cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, legal aid is still available for domestic violence cases.