Sunday, February 5News For London

High rates of domestic violence cases during the World Cup

Football is an intense sport. However, this intensity is not limited to the pitch. FIFA World Cup, a football sporting event, has been linked to increased amounts of domestic violence cases in the UK. Although the sport itself is not a direct cause, the matches allow for an atmosphere and a behavioural pattern that often leads to aggressive behaviour.

A study by the University of Central Lancashire indicates that instances of domestic violence go up by approximately 40 percent when England loses a match. Surprisingly, when the team wins, cases of domestic abuse against women also go up and by 26 percent.

This current season of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar has reached its climax in the knockout stages. According to the BBC, police authorities detained 49 suspects of domestic abuse during the initial week of the tournament. 

Various charities and organisations have issued campaigns to raise awareness and prevent the numbers of domestic violence cases from going up during England’s matches.

In November, Women’s Aid– released its latest campaign in attempt to raise awareness, especially during the ongoing World Cup. Published on Twitter, the video campaign has amassed over 5,000 views – with the following hashtag #HesComingHome.

Prevention campaign from Women’s Aid

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of the charity said in a press release: “There is a role to play by everyone, in helping to raise awareness of the support available during major tournaments like the upcoming world cup, in helping women living with abusive partners. While domestic abuse is not caused by football, we know existing abuse can become more frequent during big tournaments.”

There are multiple reasons behind the surge in rates of domestic abuse cases with regards to sporting events like football. One major factor would be the drinking associated with the football and its consequences.

Data from Criminal Injuries showed 250,000 police call-outs related to domestic incidents. Alcohol was logged in 68.2% of these call-outs, with 61.4% of accused and 36.4% of victims being recorded as under the influence.

Vox Pop during England vs France match

According to BBC, men with alcohol problems are “six or seven times more likely to be involved in domestic violence against women.” 

Trisha, 23, told Westminster World: “We all can see the behavioural change in men after the game when they are drunk. They tend to get more aggressive… Alcohol, football, and men are a dangerous combination, especially for women out there on the streets.” 

During these games the consumption of alcohol adds to the already emotionally charged atmosphere of the game, hitting a high that lasts long after the game has ended. This can have a negative outcome in the chance that your home country loses the match. Although alcohol is not the root cause of domestic abuse, it serves as a compounding factor.

Lauren, 34, a survivor of domestic abuse, told Westminster World: “Alcohol plays a major factor in a lot of abuse, a man has skinful at the pub, England loses, he goes home and takes it out on whoever is indoors. If you look at the actual events, where the world cup is currently held and the cricket in Pakistan, both of these countries have banned alcohol. The lack of thuggish behaviour stories speaks volumes in my opinion.”

She also added: “However, if a man is abusive, he is abusive regardless. A wrong look, put something down the wrong way, responding with attitude all can result in an abusive response. Alcohol plays no part in that, it will just enhance the reaction.”

Claire Lambon, CEO of Stop Domestic Abuse charity said: “ Whether the favourite team wins or loses, research shows a 47% increase in alcohol-related domestic abuse incidents when the men’s Home Nations take to the pitch.” 

Drinking out in pubs while watching a live match together is a great way to enjoy the sport, a beloved pass time for many. However, the after effects are a reason for caution. According to a survey by Football Supporters’ Association, it is estimated that one in five women experience unwanted physical attention during men’s football matches and that 24 percent of women report hearing sexist chanting. Additionally, 26 percent have been told they only liked football because they fancied the players and 44 percent have been told they knew a lot about football “for a girl.”

It’s evident that an underlying  culture of toxic masculine traits adds to these issues. According to Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism, in a recent article for  Glamour magazine, she echoed the concern that “a culture that ridicules women will inevitably foster an environment which endangers them.” 

Even though football can be seen as a sport that brings people together, disorderly behaviour has been common amongst football supporters. Attitudes brushed off as “banter” allow for “more serious abuses not to be taken seriously.” The competitive nature of the sport can cause erratic behaviour from men, mostly towards women and children. This can be translated in harmful verbal abuse, sexual assault, psychological or physical intimidation and acts of domestic violence.

According to a crime survey by the Office of National Statistics, an estimated 1.7 million women have been victims of physical domestic violence in England and Wales this year which is a 7.7 per cent increase from last year. While sporting events like football might not necessarily turn men into domestic abusers, it has been observed that in cases where domestic violence already exists, the climate of high alcohol consumption and toxic masculine traits intensifies the situation.

Westminster World spoke with members of the public on Saturday about domestic violence towards women during the England vs France game. 

Image credit: Alexia Georgieva

Polly, 22, a student working in a pub in London said that around the recent football games she has noticed a change in behaviour amongst the male customers.

She added: “Being behind the bar, I have a sense of authority and I haven’t been treated as badly as say a woman who just comes into the bar. I have noticed that some of the women customers have been sort of neglected and left out by their male counterparts.”

When showed the statistics on the increasing rates of domestic violence related to the World Cup Jane, 60, said: “Well, it’s quite daunting and frightening when you don’t know what to expect or what would kick off. So I am always very nervous. If they win, they kickoff, if they lose they kickoff.”

Jane added: “So, as a woman it’s probably best to stay out of pubs where football is showing. That’s what we did today. We went to a pub, saw them screening the football match and then immediately left.”

Image credit: Smriti Raizada

Rhea, 27, educational recruiter responded to the statistics by saying: “Sounds fair. A lot of my colleagues told me not to go out to watch the match, in case they lose. Luckily there was nothing today and I haven’t experienced it.

While the UK government has passed laws such as the Abuse Act 2021, which talks about protection of victims against domestic abuse, it is clearly not enough because of the fact that a large volume of cases go unreported where the victim is either unable to report the abuse to the authorities because of financial dependency or fear and apprehension. 

Lauren also told Westminster World: “I think the main problem is the police. I’ve heard too many horrifying stories of women calling because they know they’re about to be attacked and the police do not act because at that moment, no crime has been committed. Women aren’t heard. You have to look at the rape conviction stats for that proof. Why would we call the police if they’re not bothered?”

Yendi, 24, a dentist from London said: “There is definitely a drinking culture in the UK and when people lose control of themselves in such situations it can lead to aggressive behaviour towards the other people in their house. But I think that depends on the person, education, social level and values.”

Jo Tilley-Riley, Hestia‘s Director of Fundraising and Communications told Westminster World: “It’s important to recognise that football does not cause domestic abuse – only perpetrators cause domestic abuse. However, we know that when a big football tournament is happening, incidents of domestic abuse can increase in frequency and severity.”

She added: “This is often due to increased alcohol consumption, anti-social behaviour, and intense emotion associated with the sport. It is too early for Hestia to see the impact of the World Cup on demand for our domestic abuse support. However, we do know that there were approximately 400 extra cases of domestic abuse reported during the EURO 2020 tournament last year. We also know that every 90 minutes, the length of a football match, around 400 people experience domestic abuse.”

What needs to be done immediately to address the situation is creating a mass awareness against the crime.

A possible solution would be to campaign for broader social awareness of this issue, and for government agencies to utilise their tools and resources in partnership with charities to create an action that specifically targets periods of major sporting tournaments, to advertise this message.

In order to see change, the focus must be shifted onto the abusers rather than the abused. Every single man that puts on their England or Scotland shirt every time a match is being televised has a responsibility to educate themselves on domestic abuse and to call out those who incite violent behaviour onto women-that losing or winning a game is not an excuse.

If you have been affected by domestic abuse, support is available here.