Domestic Abuse in football: The dark side of the European Championships

24-hour Confidential Domestic Abuse Helpline: 01543 676800

Excitement had reached fever-pitch in England with the success of the national team reigniting spirit among those who fervently believe ‘it’s coming home’. However, it’s important to understand, for some, the European Championships have brought home the reality of the dark world of domestic abuse.

During the 2018 World Cup, reports of domestic abuse spiked in England and Wales, reaching a peak when England lost to Croatia in the semi-finals.  A National Centre for Domestic Violence awareness campaign ran with the words “If England gets beaten so will she”, accompanied by an image of a woman with a bloody English cross over her mouth. During Euro 2016, Ashfield and Mansfield Community Partnership placed headlines such as “It’s no excuse for abuse” and “Give domestic abuse the red card” on posters in local pubs.

A Pathway Project graphic has also stated: “Domestic Abuse rates increase by 38% when England lose”. The Pathway Project is a domestic and sexual abuse service based in Staffordshire. The graphic used information gathered from a study conducted by Lancaster

University researchers Dr Stuart Kirby and Professor Brian Francis who used figures gathered by Lancashire Constabulary from the 2002, 2006, and 2010 tournaments.

They also discovered a 26% rise in cases when England won or drew, compared to when they did not play. Despite the outcome, they identified a link between domestic abuse and England World Cup football matches.

The researchers suggest a number of possible reasons for this link: “The tournament is held in the summer and is associated with warmer temperatures, increased alcohol and brings individuals in closer proximity to others.” They also theorised the concentration of domestic abuse risk factors associated with the tournament may “intensify the concepts of masculinity, rivalry and aggression”.

To reduce the link between domestic abuse and football matches, Women’s Aid have launched an initiative called ‘Football United’ which aims to “call out sexist behaviour that can underpin violence towards women and girls” with content advocating respectful relationships with the Professional Footballers Association and a programme which delivers domestic abuse training to matchday staff and stewards.

The Football United Supporter Pledge has been signed by several players, clubs, celebrities, and footballing bodies, including Chief Executive of The Football Association, Martin Glenn, Director of Policy at The Premier League, William Bush, and Soccer AM Presenter, Max Rushden.

Although campaigns are striving for positive change, England’s performance in European Championships remains a terrifying concept to many who have fallen and continue to fall victim to domestic abuse. If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues covered in this article, please contact the 24-hour Confidential Domestic Abuse Helpline: 01543 676800

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Dolly Carter

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September 2021
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