The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off a few weeks ago in Qatar. While a majority perceive the renowned tournament as a chance to celebrate and party, for some, it marks a time of apprehension. That’s why Women’s Aid—a charity that campaigns for change and helps to support survivors of abuse—has collaborated with House 337 and UK artist Corbin Shaw to launch a new film and poster campaign called ‘He’s Coming Home’.
The campaign reworks St George’s Cross to send a powerful message aiming to tackle the surge in domestic abuse incidents triggered by stress levels, alcohol consumption, and gambling during the football tournament. The men’s 2022 World Cup kicked off a few weeks ago in Qatar and with some seeing the World Cup as a chance to celebrate and party, some are sadly feeling a little more apprehensive than others about the usually exciting event.
Currently, England is doing extremely well in the World Cup. After beating Senegal 3-0 on Sunday 4 December, the team is now about to face its biggest opponent yet: France. As of today, England is close to winning its second World Cup—the last one being in 1966 (yes, that long ago). At the same time, the team’s development and standing in the competition highlights a bigger problem within our society.
“He held me down and shouted at me and when I struggled to get loose, he hit me.”
England having only won one World Cup 56 years ago is probably shocking to you, but the statistics behind football-related domestic abuse cases are even more so. Back in 2014, domestic violence cases in the UK increased by 38 per cent when England lost a World Cup match. What’s more is that, even when the team won a game, domestic abuse incidents still increased by 26 per cent. The following day witnessed an 11 per cent increase in cases, regardless of the outcome of the match.
Similar worries were brought up during the 2018 World Cup and the 2020 Euro. Keeping this in mind, if England does end up bringing it home this year—should we expect yet another increase in domestic violence across the country?
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse or family violence, can be defined as any violent or aggressive behaviour within the home, typically involving the abuse of a spouse or partner. It’s not uncommon for victims to not realise the gravity of their situation. Clear violent behaviour aside, “incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading behaviour, including sexual violence” also qualify as domestic abuse, as Women’s Aid elaborated on its website.
In other words, domestic violence comes in many shapes and sizes—both physical and mental. Environmental factors can also play a part in such violent patterns. For example, different cultures come with their own set of beliefs, traditions and values when it comes to sexuality, family, marriage and divorce. In some cases, these can lead victims of domestic abuse to remain silent in fear of their own family or community rejecting them.
“I felt worthless and so guilty for letting him into my life in the first place—like it was my fault!”
Ultimately, there is no excuse or reasoning for domestic violence. It is not the fault of the victim, it lies directly in the hands of the abusers.
“In the UK, two women are murdered by a partner every week. At the same time, only one per cent of charges lead to a conviction for rape,” Janey Starling, member of the feminist campaign Level Up, told The Guardian. Furthermore, countless victims of domestic violence feel so isolated they can take between two to three to ask for help.
It’s therefore crucial that, as we near the end of this year’s World Cup, we look out for those who will have to suffer the heartbreaking consequences of the tournament—win or lose.
Do you think you or someone you know may be suffering from domestic violence? Here are some domestic violence hotlines to help:
Please do not hesitate to get in contact if you are in need of support or help.
The pull quotes featured in this article were taken from case studies of domestic abuse shared by Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors (FLOWS).
As chants of ‘it’s coming home’ echo throughout stadiums, crowded pubs and car radios, countless silent victims of domestic abuse will be coming home to something far more sinister. I’m not writing this piece to villainise the sport as a whole. I love football: it’s rich working-class history; it’s the power to bring communities together; its ability to bring nations together—I mean, it was the one thing that briefly stopped brutal trench warfare on 1914’s Christmas Day. But it’s also important to remember that, back in 2014, when England lost a game, incidents of domestic violence increased by 38 per cent. Even more shockingly, when they won, the number still increased by 26 per cent.
This was data taken from a study by Lancaster University which measured instances of domestic violence when England participated in the 2014 World Cup. But don’t think the same thinking process can’t be applied to the Euro 2020 too. Already, it’s estimated that 6.2 per cent of adults in England and Wales aged 16 to 59 have experienced domestic abuse in the year ending in March 2018—women are almost twice as likely to have reported the experience at 7.9 per cent than men at 4.2 per cent. This number is likely to increase during the current European football tournament, and future international competitions, unless something changes.
That being said, is the link between football and domestic abuse strong? Or are there other confounding variables that may influence the statistics? A more recent study conducted by the University of Warwick examined the issue in more detail and with a larger sample size to pin down what might be driving the association between national football tournaments and domestic abuse.
In a blog post for the London School of Economics, Anna Trendl, who is a scientist on the team at the University of Warwick, wrote: “While the link between football fandom and domestic abuse is complex, experts have long pointed to alcohol as an important factor in this relationship. Sport spectatorship and alcohol consumption are inextricably linked, and this is especially true in the context of English football fandom.”
And further data hints towards this being true. On the day of England’s quarter-final victory against Sweden in the 2018 World Cup, hospitals up and down the country reported a record number of alcohol poisoning cases. Several other studies have also highlighted the link between alcohol intoxication and violent behaviour. A report published by the Office of National Statistics in 2018 found that victims of violent crime in England and Wales believed that their perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol in 39 per cent of cases. This leads Trendl to argue that, although alcohol may not be the direct cause of violent behaviour, it acts as an aggravating factor by lowering inhibitions.
In the study, Trendl and her team analysed ten year’s worth of crime data from the West Midlands Police. They focused on England’s national football matches in this period, finding a 47 per cent increase in alcohol-related domestic abuse cases on days when the England teams won in a tournament and an 18 per cent increase on the days after an England match.
From the data, they argued that the link between England football victories and the increase in alcohol-related domestic abuse is likely to be causal. First off, on the days where England won matches, they saw a rise in only alcohol-related cases and not the control group. Likewise, they reported a clear pattern of increase in abuse—which started three hours before a match and peaked during the following hours before gradually declining. This highlights that there is a consistent link between football games and alcohol-related behaviour, a pattern that is replicated across different regions of the country.
Trendl writes: “The exact mechanism by which national football victories lead to an increase in the number of domestic abuse cases is evidently complex, and much of this remains unexplored. What this evidence shows us is that alcohol plays a key role in this relationship.”
So, while football is waking up to political issues such as taking the knee for the Black Lives Matter movement, the issue of domestic abuse, fuelled by alcohol but intertwined with the English football culture should also be brought into public discourse. By all means, enjoy the beautiful game—I’m rooting for England all the way—but this urgently important issue of domestic abuse needs to be addressed.