NEWS
18/06/2018 17:12 BST | Updated 18/06/2018 18:38 BST

Police Forces Warn Of Surge In Domestic Abuse During England World Cup Games

Reports of violence rise by 38% when the national team lose.

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With the World Cup underway in Russia, police forces and victim support services across the UK are braced to deal with a rise in reports of domestic abuse

In the run up to the tournament, police forces put out warnings to perpetrators that a zero tolerance stance will be taken, while pledging to take reports from victims seriously.

Research shows that incidents of domestic abuse rise when England play, whether they win or lose. 

The most detailled research into the phenomenon was carried out by Lancaster University, whose researchers analysed figures from Lancashire Constabulary across three tournaments in 2002, 2006, and 2010.

The research found that incidents of domestic abuse rose by 38% when the England team lost and increased by 26% when England won or drew compared with days when there was no England match. Incidents of domestic abuse were also 11% higher the day after an England match. 

West Mercia Police, which covers Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, is one force that has launched a campaign with its partners including the region’s Women’s Aid to raise awareness as the World Cup begins. 

Throughout the 2014 World Cup, West Mercia Police dealt with 506 domestic abuse crimes and West Mercia Women’s Aid reported that calls to their helpline increased by 11% in June 2014 compared to the previous month, and they were 15% higher than for June in the previous year. 

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Detective Superintendent Richard Long of West Mercia Police told HuffPost UK: “Research shows that incidents of domestic abuse can rise during international sporting competitions and certainly when we looked back at the World Cup during 2014, we saw a rise during that time.”

The police know it is an “extremely under-reported” crime, he said, and research shows that the average victim will suffer in excess of 50 incidents before they tell anyone, suggesting that official figures are just the tip of the iceberg. 

“If we’re seeing rises of 10 and 15% of whats reported, it’s very concerning to think about what the rise is in what isn’t reported,” he added.

Long said the vast majority of people enjoy football without abusing their partners, and that the police’s aim is to highlight that perpetrators can’t use it as an excuse for their behaviour. 

He said: “The underlying message is that major sporting events don’t cause domestic abuse. Perpetrators are responsible for their own actions.”

He said the police believe high levels of alcohol consumption often associated with football fans combined with “the kind of emotional nature” contribute to the increase. But, Long said, that is “still no excuse”. 

Ultimately his police force aims is to ensure victims know that reports of domestic abuse will be taken seriously by the police and that perpetrators know there will be consequences for their actions.

He said: “If you ‘kick off at home’ you can expect to be arrested and incidents will be fully investigated.”

Sue Coleman, chief executive of West Mercia Women’s Aid, added: “Women we help report that the high levels of emotion and frustration that are experienced by those who are avid football supporters during this period, can prove an aggravating factor where their partner’s behaviour can already be volatile and abusive.”

She added that those in relationships where one person takes their anger out on the other, regardless of the cause, will be “dreading” the World Cup starting.

Nationally, Women’s Aid has been working with with football clubs, the FA, the Premier League and BT Sport to call out sexist attitudes and behaviour that some fans still exhibit.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of the charity, said that the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement highlighted prevailing sexist attitudes and behaviours in parts of our culture and society.

“Sexism and misogyny underpin violence against women and girls,” she said. “These damaging attitudes are rife in our society; football is no exception.”

She pointed out that football does not cause domestic abuse, However, she said: “Domestic abuse does not happen in a cultural vacuum. The sexist attitudes, chants and behaviour at football matches encourage an environment in which women are belittled and demeaned.

“Football is part of our national culture, enjoyed by millions of men, women and children every week. The World Cup is a time when supporters from all clubs come together in support of their national team.”

Ghose said it was important for the football community to stand united against abuse and sexism to send the message that it is always unacceptable.

She said: “There is no place for violence in football whether on or off the pitch.”

  • Refuge- Domestic violence help for women and children - 0808 2000 247
  • Visit Women’s Aid- support for abused women and children – or call the National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Women’s Aid and Refuge, on 0808 2000 247
  • Broken Rainbow- The LGBT domestic violence charity - 0845 2 60 55 60
  • Men’s Advice Linefor advice and support for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse - 0808 801 0327
  • Refuge- Domestic violence help for women and children - 0808 2000 247
  • Visit Women’s Aid- support for abused women and children – or call the National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Women’s Aid and Refuge, on 0808 2000 247
  • Broken Rainbow- The LGBT domestic violence charity - 0845 2 60 55 60
  • Men’s Advice Linefor advice and support for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse - 0808 801 0327