World cup worries over domestic abuse
19 June 2018

There is an angle to the beautiful game which is extremely worrying. Before the last World Cup, academics at Lancaster University published a study which aimed to establish whether empirical evidence existed to support the view that the World Cup on TV can be associated with a rise in reported domestic abuse incidents.

Dr Stuart Kirby and Professor Brian Francis of Lancaster University, with Rosalie O'Flaherty, carried out a relatively small study, but one which was found to have significant ramifications due to the global nature of the televised sport. It was published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.

Researchers analysed figures from Lancashire Constabulary across three tournaments in 2002, 2006, and 2010. After controlling for day of the week, incidents of domestic abuse rose by 38 per cent in Lancashire when the England team played and lost and increased by 26 per cent when the England national team played and won or drew compared with days when there was no England match.

There was also a carry-over effect, with incidents of domestic abuse 11% higher the day after an England match. A police officer quoted in the report said: “The World Cup appears a reason for many to party, however delight and expectation can turn into despair and conflict with the kick of a ball.”

The researchers also found that reported domestic abuse incidents increased in frequency with each new tournament, from an average of 64 in 2002 rising to 99 in 2010.

The researchers said there could be several factors behind these findings. They said, “The tournament is held in the summer and is associated with warmer temperatures, increased alcohol consumption and brings individuals in closer proximity to others”. They regarded the findings to be significant because they could lead to new ways to tackle domestic violence and so reduce "the misery of abused partners, as well as the children and family members”.

Just before the last event kicked off, Women’s Aid, supported by the Premier League and BT Sport held a Parliamentary event to launch Football United Against Domestic Violence, a campaign working with football clubs, organisations, players and fans to help raise awareness of domestic violence.

Four years ago, the message began to get home. In Essex, police put on extra patrols during and after England's first match and placed domestic violence intelligence teams in police control rooms.

Enquiries made of Thames Valley Police show that TVP is not running a specific campaign around the tournament. In contrast to TVP, West Yorkshire Police does have a campaign: https://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/news-appeals/world-cup-2018-domestic-abuse-campaign as is West Mercia: https://www.westmercia.police.uk/article/47526/West-Mercia-Police-is-showing-domestic-abuse-the-red-card

West Yorkshire Police says, “During the Euro 2016 tournament, and other major sporting events, police have seen spikes in domestic abuse incidents, particularly during key games or matches that fall on weekends. On the day of the first England game during Euro 2016, police were called to 185 domestic abuse incidents, compared to 152 incidents the Saturday before the tournament. The day of the final match between Portugal and France there were 204 reports of domestic abuse to West Yorkshire Police”.

Specialist divorce and family law solicitor, Tony Roe of Tony Roe Solicitors in Theale, Berkshire ,said, ” The police approach seems very patchy. There does not seem to have been the same level of publicity, seeking to raise awareness over domestic abuse in this context, as we go into 2018 World Cup. My law firm’s experience, with clients throughout England and Wales, is that significant amounts of domestic violence go on behind closed doors but go unmentioned and unreported at the time. Since the last World Cup a new law has been introduced which should offer more protection. Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship”

“Where someone encounters domestic abuse or coercive control, they should seek immediate professional help. There are many charities which can assist with information and support, both locally and nationally. Such issues, and indeed harassment, have criminal implications so the police should be contacted as soon as possible where they occur. Taking independent advice from a family law solicitor is very important. Legal aid and public funding may be available to bring applications for non-molestation and exclusion injunction orders. One must also remember that these conflict issues involve and/or impact upon children so legal advice should be taken on protecting them and promoting their welfare”.


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