1. What are the links between the football world cup and domestic violence?

A widely cited study published in 2013 looked at whether the football world cup was associated with a rise in domestic abuse incidents. Published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, it examined incidents reported to a police force in northwest England across three world cups (2002, 2006 and 2010). It found that the risk of abuse rose by 26% when England won or drew and increased by 38% when they lost. It also reported an increase in incidents when matches fell on weekends and found that abuse peaked when England exited the tournament. In addition, researchers identified that incidents increased in frequency with each new world cup.

More recent research published in the Policing Journal showed that the link between domestic abuse and football is an international phenomenon. Published in May 2022, the study examined medical records in Columbia which provided national daily counts relating to violence against women (VAW) and intimate partner violence (IPV) during the 2014 and 2018 world cups. It found that:

  • during the 2014 world cup, medical examinations rose by 43% for VAW and 39% for IPV on match days (compared to non-match days)
  • in 2018, examinations increased by 26% for VAW and 27% for IPV compared to non-match days
  • increases were higher on weekends and when Columbia won rather than when they lost

2. What are the possible reasons for this link?

Writing for the Conversation during the 2018 world cup, some of the researchers responsible for these pieces of research explained the link between violence and the world cup. They also focused on causes of abuse, explaining that academics account for it using both individual and social explanations. Individual accounts suggest that abuse comes from those who lash out due to their inability to deal with anger or frustration, the consumption of drugs and/or alcohol, or because they’ve witnessed the behaviour in others. Social explanations are based on wider cultural factors, for example the imbalance of power between men and women.

The authors said both factors were relevant and highlighted that the world cup brings together “a perfect storm” of emotional and situational stressors. They also noted that the length of the tournament means that there are more arguments between partners about what to watch on TV and that matches often take place on warm days and in periods with increased alcohol sales, both of which are linked to increased violence.

An article on LSE’s British politics and policy blog also focused on the link between football and domestic violence. Using data from Greater Manchester police over an eight-year period, the authors looked at whether football triggers certain people to commit domestic abuse, as well as the hourly dynamics of violence against intimate partners during and after a game. It found that incidents of domestic abuse decrease during a football game. However, after the match, incidents start growing by 5% every two hours in the first four hours after the game ends. The highest increase was found to occur 10 to 12 hours after the start of the game, with the effect disappearing 16 hours after.

The authors also reported that detailed information on the type of relationship and the characteristics of victims and perpetrators allowed them to see that domestic abuse between ex-partners is not affected by football, nor is abuse committed by female perpetrators. Rather, it was found that the change around football is driven by abuse between current partners at home in the aftermath of the game and “is driven exclusively by male perpetrators on female victims”.

They examined arguments that strong emotional reactions caused by the game and increased alcohol consumption increased abuse. They said that they did not find evidence that games which were the most likely to induce the strongest negative emotional reaction (‘upset losses’) have any additional effects on domestic abuse incidence, with or without alcohol. However, they did report that following early games (those starting before 6.30pm) the consumption of alcohol increased abuse. Alcohol was not found to have the same impact for late games.

3. What are the potential solutions?

Considering what actions should be taken to address the link between domestic abuse and football, the authors of the LSE blog said there should be a focus on policies to reduce binge drinking. For example, this could include scheduling games later in the day and reducing alcohol advertising associated with football. They also argued that their findings showed a need for more research on whether policies, such as the use of cognitive behavioural therapy for alcohol addicts, could help.

The authors of the Colombia study also called for more research, stating that more could be done to accurately understand the factors that trigger intimate partner aggression during tournaments. They said that once this was understood, interventions could be put in place. They also cited previous examples of interventions aimed at tackling football-related domestic abuse. For example, a campaign in Costa Rica in 2015 saw broadcasters create an additional scoreboard during a world cup qualifying match which displayed the number of phone calls police received in real time. They reported that this appeared to have a positive effect, with a 33% reduction in calls during the next match.

Cover image by Vienna Reyes on Unsplash.