Euro 2012: Tournament football and domestic violence

Derbyshire Constabulary's poster warning of domestic violence Police forces have launched campaigns to raise awareness

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As England's Euro 2012 campaign kicks off, police forces across the country have issued warnings about domestic violence.

But what impact do international football tournaments have on this type of abuse?

Research by BBC News has found there was a surge in domestic violence reports to police during the 2010 World Cup.

Figures obtained from police forces across England under the Freedom of Information Act show that when England beat Slovenia, nationally the rate per 1,000 people of domestic violence reports increased by 27%.

And when England lost 4-1 to Germany, domestic violence increased by 29% - however on the two games in the tournament that they drew, there was no noticeable impact overall.

The percentages were worked out by comparing daily reports to police forces during the tournament with the corresponding days in 2009 when there were not any football matches happening.

Statistician Professor Allan Brimicombe, an expert in domestic violence and the chair of the Crime and Justice Statistics Network, analysed and verified the figures.

"There's a national pattern that is significantly relevant," he said, adding: "The stats are pretty conclusive. It's a definitive and significant increase."

Chris Hancox, from White Ribbon UK, which campaigns against violence to women, said: "If someone's football team loses, that's no reason to take it out on anyone, particularly the person they're supposed to love.

"There is no reason or rationale for it happening. It is only a football match."

'Power and control'

Paula Hall, a counsellor with Relate, said: "Football doesn't cause domestic abuse, but it's an issue which in some relationships can compound it."

Male victim's experience

Ian, 50, from north England, is a victim of domestic abuse.

He was with his partner for 18 months, during 12 of which he was abused.

He was repeatedly attacked and sustained a fractured skull and ribs, and his left arm was badly battered after he was struck with a metal bar and hammer.

His partner is now serving seven years for GBH with intent and assault.

A lifelong football supporter, he said his partner used this as a way to control him.

"I supported my local team since I was a young boy. She said I loved them more than her.

"She destroyed my season ticket and would rip up sport pages so I couldn't follow what my team were doing."

He said perpetrators used alcohol as an excuse.

"People who use football as an excuse are not genuine football fans.

"The issue is someone's mentality.

"Her excuse for some of the assaults was that I showed more interest in the team than her. It was a control issue."

She said arguments about the amount of television watched, alcohol intake, jealousy due to people spending more time with friends and an increase in money spent could lead to an increase in tensions.

Ms Hall added there could also be frustrations about the results, especially if one partner did not empathise.

Mark Brooks, chairman of Mankind, a charity which supports male victims of domestic abuse, agrees.

"The tension will be someone in a relationship is more focused on football. For example, the husband loves football and the wife doesn't and this can cause tension which is then exposed through domestic violence abuse."

Mr Brooks said it was not necessarily about people drinking more alcohol, as domestic abuse was multi-dimensional and a sober wife could beat a man.

Abuse can also be psychological and not always physical, he added.

"It's about power and control. For example, people can be forced not to watch it."

He added he was not surprised by the figures as the charity's helpline had also experienced an increase in calls.

However, domestic violence charity Refuge is keen to point out that abuse happens all year round, not just when England are playing in an international tournament.

The charity's chief executive, Sandra Horley, said: "Lots of men who abuse women have no interest in sport, and many football fans would never lay a finger on their partner.

"However, we do know that for some women matches can be one of a number of difficult times when their partners may abuse alcohol and use that as an excuse to be violent towards them."

Domestic violence and football

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has issued guidance for police forces on how to deal with any increase in domestic violence during Euro 2012.

It is urging forces to work with other agencies to remind victims of such abuse of the services available to them and to warn offenders of the destructive effects of domestic violence.

One force, Derbyshire Constabulary, has increased what it is doing following a significant rise in calls during the 2010 World Cup.

Det Insp Paul Carrington said the force was working closely with the city and county councils to raise awareness.

He said posters which offered advice had been produced and put in places including pubs, newsagents, GP surgeries, libraries and sport centres.

Start Quote

I would encourage the FA not to say it's nothing to do with us”

End Quote Chris Hancox White Ribbon UK

Officers who specialise in domestic violence will be on hand for all England and Poland matches, as Derbyshire has a significant Polish community. They will be able to offer guidance to officers at the scene so that they know what to look out for.

The police will also pay attention to people who are known to them to be either a victim or perpetrator. Curfews will be checked as will bail conditions.

"Anything we can do to prevent or intervene as early as possible we will do," Det Insp Carrington added.

Some charities are disappointed that the football community is not taking more action.

The Football Association said it could not comment on what was not a footballing matter, while the Football Supporters' Federation said domestic abuse was not one of its policy areas and it had to represent the views of its members.

White Ribbon's Mr Hancox, who has worked with football clubs including Bristol City and Bristol Rovers to raise awareness, said: "I'm surprised the FA has taken such a narrow approach.

"I would encourage the FA not to say it's nothing to do with us, but it should work with groups to get the message out.

"It would be useful if the FA would address this as they can get to clubs in a more efficient way."

Match-day domestic violence (% change*)

Police Force DRAW 12/06/10 DRAW 18/06/10 WIN 23/06/10 LOSE 27/06/10

*% change in the rates per 1000 population

Source: BBC FoI requests. Analysis: Professor Allan Brimicombe, University of East London

Avon and Somerset

-5.5%

-27.9%

12.5%

24.6%

Bedfordshire

-29.6%

1%

-3.7%

58.1%

Cambridgeshire

-14.6%

19.3%

17.3%

36.8%

Cleveland

-0.5%

32.1%

33.6%

5.6%

Cumbria

-22.9%

57.4%

8.6%

53.8%

Derbyshire

1.2%

27.7%

110%

42.5%

Devon and Cornwall

-12%

1.1%

45.2%

7.6%

Dorset

-1.7%

21.7%

95.9%

52%

Essex

4.3%

-33.3%

36.4%

10.2%

Gt Manchester

8.7%

16.5%

22.1%

47.4%

Hampshire

15.3%

2.2%

60.9%

42.9%

Hertfordshire

-0.6%

-25.2%

51.9%

-0.5%

Humberside

9.9%

9.3%

50%

19.3%

Kent

15.9%

-28.5%

32.4%

24.4%

Lancashire

-15.2%

-7.4%

95.1%

64.9%

Leicestershire

0%

15.4%

75.6%

31.6%

Merseyside

-1.4%

32.3%

61.9%

50.1%

Metropolitan

-13.1%

-5.5%

4.1%

6.1%

Norfolk

-25.5%

-17.5%

71.4%

5.1%

N Yorkshire

7.6%

4.8%

40.6%

177.2%

Northamptonshire

25.8%

-23.8%

23.7%

74.7%

Northumbria

2.4%

-1.6%

22.4%

68.7%

Nottinghamshire

-10.4%

-17.2%

25%

-10.2%

S Yorkshire

22.8%

14.5%

80.9%

48.4%

Suffolk

12.7%

-20%

30.6%

1.4%

Surrey

-9%

11.6%

16.3%

11.9%

Sussex

39.2%

47.5%

26.5%

81.2%

Thames Valley

-16.9%

-14.9%

21.7%

26%

Warwickshire

1.5%

1.1%

12.9%

66.4%

West Mercia

7.9%

49%

-23.5%

100%

W Midlands

-8.4%

-4.6%

-9.9%

-2.5%

W Yorkshire

-4.4%

0.5%

17.5%

-6.4%

Wiltshire

1.3%

-35.5%

36.4%

47.9%

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