Will the World Cup Cause a Rise in Domestic Violence?
The NSPCC has highlighted their concerns for children at risk during the world cup because of the rise of domestic violence that is associated with major football tournaments. This post examines the link between football and domestic violence and abuse giving practical guidance and support for those working with families at risk of abuse in the home.
The start of a major football tournament often brings with it a reported increase in police call-outs for incidents of domestic abuse and the NSPCC has raised concerns for the safety of the estimated 250,000 children impacted by domestic abuse in England. The NSPCC have highlighted their figures from the 2018 world cup which showed a direct effect on children during this period, with a 33% raise in helpline calls about domestic abuse and a 17% rise in children requiring counselling for domestic abuse.
Statistics now available nationally from 11th June-11th July 2021 when the Euros 2020 football tournament took place show further cause for concern:
26 police forces recorded a 10% increase in the number of domestic abuse reports during this time with a total of 96,473 reports of domestic abuse.
Incidents of domestic abuse reported to the Metropolitan Police rose by more than 14%.
Wiltshire Constabulary reported a rise of over 1,000% with 549 domestic abuse cases recorded.
Merseyside Police figures showed a 600% rise in domestic abuse cases, receiving over 1,985 reports.
The number of referrals for protective court orders increased by 5% with the National Centre for Domestic Violence receiving more than 400 new referrals compared to the five-week period before.
The timing of this world cup could cause an even bigger impact than previous tournaments, partly as it takes place during the Christmas season which already sees an annual rise in case but also because tensions are already raised with families struggling with the dire effect that the cost of living crisis is having on family finances.
Why does national football cause a rise in incidents?
A common misconception when considering the link between football and abuse is that when a team loses incidents of domestic abuse increases. However, a study by Lancaster University in 2014 showed that although incidents rose by 38% on days in which England lost a 26% rise in abuse was still observed when England won or drew with an 11% rise the next day regardless of the result.
Alcohol consumption is another factor that may play a role in the surge in cases and there is a strong association between drinking culture and football in England, evidenced by the increase in alcohol-related injuries reported by hospitals on England match days. While there is no evidence that alcohol alone causes domestic violence it undoubtedly plays a disinhibiting role in stirring up the negative attitudes and behaviours which lead to violence and abuse.
A larger-scale study than the Lancaster research, published in 2021 by the LSE looked specifically at the link between alcohol, football and domestic violence. Using 10 years of crime data and focusing on English national football matches (World Cups and Euros) results showed no increase in the number of non-alcohol-related domestic abuse reports on England match days, however, there was a 47% increase in the number of alcohol-related reports when England won, followed by an 18% increase on the day after a win. When studying the exact time pattern of incidents on win days the increase in alcohol-related incidents started in the three-hour period of the match, peaked in the next three hours and then gradually declined to its original levels 24 hours after the match. This time pattern is consistent with the idea that alcohol-fuelled celebrations following an England win can have a direct effect on the increasing number of domestic abuse incidents.
The LSE study also captured data from England’s rugby matches from the Six Nations rugby tournament, which found no impact on the number of alcohol- or non-alcohol-related domestic abuse cases whether the England rugby team won, lost, or drew. The data also revealed that the increase mostly stems from male-to-female alcohol-related domestic abuse cases. These two statistics may point to a reason why football has an effect but not rugby and why the women's Euros football tournament showed no increase in cases.
English male football is linked to national identity and major tournaments attract increased media attention which focuses on building a narrative of English male strength and pride and an 'us v them' mentality. Research has suggested that together these elements may act as a vehicle for male fans in particular which brings to the fore ideals of masculinity that support dominance and control over others which feeds into domestic abuse dynamics of power and control.
What about Christmas?
The Christmas period is another time which always shows a reported increase in police call-outs for incidents of domestic abuse. Financial pressures, alcohol on tap, trying to create the 'perfect' Christmas and being cooped up together for long periods are all thought to contribute to this regular rise in incidents. Christmas time also causes further difficulties for victims as services are closed for the holidays meaning there are fewer opportunities for them to report abuse and routes to safety are shut down. School closures for the holidays also mean that opportunities for children to report abuse and access support are restricted.
A survey by the UK’s largest family law firm Stowe Family Law found that:
One in six respondents believed they were more likely to suffer emotional or physical abuse from their partner over the Christmas period.
Four in ten were scared that the Christmas period would lead to the end of their marriage.
Around a third said that money was the chief cause of strain on their relationship.
Two in ten said that “spending time with the wider family” was likely to trigger tension with their partner.
“Domestic abuse usually rises across the seasonal Christmas period,” ... “But December  for West Midlands police was actually our highest recorded month for domestic abuse in our history. The lockdown has an impact ... you have people who are uncertain about employment, where alcohol can be playing more of an issue. Tempers get raised and people can find themselves in an abusive relationship and needing to get out.” - Detective Superintendent Jenny Skyrme ITV News
Does this mean that football, Christmas or alcohol cause domestic abuse?
There are a large number of factors that statistics show can lead to a rise in reported incidents of domestic violence including Christmas, financial hardship, Covid restrictions as well as alcohol consumption and football tournaments. However, it is important to note that none of these factors in themselves causes domestic abuse or creates abusers. It is now generally accepted by experts in the field that domestic abuse is caused by the perpetrator in order to keep power and control over a partner and while outside factors can raise the risk of further violence and abuse they do not cause it.
Whatever the reason behind an escalation in violent and abusive behaviour we should always put the blame where it belongs. Perpetrators of abuse choose to act abusively and should always be held responsible for their behaviour.
How can you safety plan for this time?
It is important that safety planning is carried out with all families that are living with domestic abuse, which should have the children's safety and protection as the primary concern. Where social workers are already working with a family that are remaining together the perpetrator should also be included in the planning.
Detailed guidance for social workers on how to complete safety planning with families can be found in our post How to complete safety planning with families and for cases where coercive control is a concern visit Coercive Control: Management and Safety Planning Guidance for Social Workers.
Guidance on how to speak to children about abuse, possible risk management strategies for keeping children safe within the home and post-separation can be found in our post How can Children be Protected from Abuse Post-Lockdown?
For professionals working with families where a safety plan is already in place the following would indicate that the level of risk is rising:
Evidence that the tension is rising in the home such as the parents frequently arguing;
Evidence that separated parents are having contact or the mother becomes pregnant;
Allegations of violence or abuse from a parent or third parties;
The parents fail to cooperate with any written agreements and fail to engage with social workers;
Inability to contact the parents or see the children;
A change in the behaviour of the children or victim together with unexplained injuries to them;
Police notifications of domestic incidents or disturbances in the home.
DV-ACT provide a number of interventions to keep families safe including risk assessments and treatment programmes for parents aimed at improving children's safety in the home. This includes a vulnerability programme for mothers and holding perpetrators to account for their behaviour through motivational work and a full perpetrator programme.
References and resources
Blog Post: The link between England football victories and the recorded increase in alcohol-related domestic abuse is likely to be causal - https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/england-football-alcohol-domestic-violence/
News article: 'He used to punch me while I was asleep': Domestic abuse cases rise to record high over Christmas - https://www.itv.com/news/2021-01-14/he-used-to-punch-me-while-i-was-asleep-domestic-abuse-cases-rise-to-record-high-over-christmas
News article: World Cup fears after spike in Euros domestic abuse - https://www.swlondoner.co.uk/news/07062022-world-cup-fears-after-spike-in-euros-domestic-abuse
Campaign post: NSPCC Children face greater risk of domestic abuse during World Cup - https://www.nspcc.org.uk/about-us/news-opinion/2022/children-face-greater-risk-of-domestic-abuse-during-world-cup/?utm_source=Adestra&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Children%20face%20greater%20risk%20of%20domestic%20abuse%20during%20World%20Cup&utm_campaign=20221121_KIS_CASPAR_November21
Kirby, S., Francis, B., & O’Flaherty, R. (2014). Can the FIFA World Cup Football (Soccer) Tournament Be Associated with an Increase in Domestic Abuse? Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 51(3), 259–276. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022427813494843
Trendl, A., Stewart, N., & Mullett, T. L. (2021). The role of alcohol in the link between national football (soccer) tournaments and domestic abuse-Evidence from England. Social science & medicine, 268, 113457. - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953620306766?dgcid=rss_sd_all#!
In an emergency always dial 999
If you dial 999 and are unable to speak press 55 and follow the instructions from the operator, find out more here - https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/research-learning/Silent_solution_guide.pdf
Helplines are available in the UK as follows:
National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
Action on Elder Abuse helpline: 0808 808 8141
Childline - 0800 1111 you can also go to https://www.childline.org.uk/get-support/
NSPCC (Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm at the weekends) - 0808 800 5000 or Contact counsellors 24 hours a day by email or online reporting form email@example.com
Respect phoneline for perpetrators of domestic abuse - 0808 8024040
Online community support - With Abuse Talk you can join the discussion on domestic abuse through a weekly Twitter Chat every Wednesday 8-9pm GMT www.twitter.com/abusetalkonline there is also a forum https://jennifergilmour.com/community/ which is available 24/7 and even houses a solicitor who will answer questions and queries for no charge, and a podcast which delivers a series of interviews with those that work in the domestic abuse sector. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and more.
DV-ACT are a team of domestic abuse experts, available throughout the UK, who provide assessments, programmes, consultancy and training to local authorities and the family courts. Our experts have decades of experience working directly with domestic abuse perpetrators and victims, as specialist assessors and as expert witnesses in the family courts.
DV-ACT was formed with the aim of using our expertise to help safeguard children from abuse, this is at the heart of everything that we do. To read more about us please visit our post - Who are DV-ACT?