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Football violence: from the stadium to the settee

Football is a national pastime in this country. The column inches and airtime devoted to teams, players, managers, the transfer window and the league results is staggering – and we’re big fans here at CFLP too. Hype and hand-wringing surrounding the national team is remarkably prevalent, even when they’re not playing. On the darker side, football has been notorious in the past for incidences of violence between rival teams, and increased admissions to hospital emergency departments on local match days are well known.

However an interesting study just published by researchers from the University of Lancaster indicates that violence connected to football matches is not just restricted to fans brawling in the streets.

The University’s research team analysed domestic abuse figures produced by Lancashire Constabulary across the three most recent World Cup football tournaments in 2002, 2006, and 2010. They found that domestic abuse increases during England’s World Cup matches – especially if the team loses. Although they only looked at reported incidents in one county (Lancashire), the results of their study showed that domestic abuse rose by 38% when the England team played and lost, and increased by 26%when the England team played and won or drew, compared with days when there was no England match. There also seemed to be a prolonged effect, with abuse still 11% higher than normal on the day after an England match. The full study can be read here.

The researchers also found an increasing amount of domestic violence with each successive World Cup tournament, and a greater incidence of violence when England games took place on a weekend, rather than a weekday. Although the reasons for this developing trend are not certain, sensible suggestions in the report include the increasing commercialisation of the tournament and stronger advertising, which leads to increased alcohol consumption, and people being in close proximity gathered around a television either at home or in a pub. They also suggest that the tournament is associated with concepts of masculinity, rivalry and aggression which can spill over into the domestic setting.

The Government has been making efforts to tackle domestic violence and to improve the way such cases are dealt with in the court system, including expanding the number of specialist domestic violence courts.

It is important to remember that domestic abuse is not limited to physical acts but also can also include emotional, psychological, sexual and even financial abuse. The Government recently extended the definition of domestic violence to include ‘coercive control’ which it defines as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.” This extension is aimed at providing better identification of and wider protection to victims.

Help is available to victims through both criminal and civil law. Of course for anyone suffering abuse, or fearing that they will, then calling the police should always be the first action. The Home Secretary recently asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to carry out an inspection into how police forces are responding to domestic violence. This was done in response to a number of high profile cases where protection for victims has fallen below the standards expected, leading in some cases to deaths when warning signs had been missed. It will look at the performance of forces across England and Wales, identify where improvements need to be made and report back to the Home Office in April 2014.

Apart from the immediate action which the police can take, there are protective injunctions which the civil courts can order, and we can help you with those. There are two different types of injunction – a non-molestation order (forbidding certain behaviour, such as violence or harassment, sometimes known colloquially as a “restraining order”), and an occupation order (which regulates who can occupy the family home, and if one partner is excluded, how the bills should be paid).

Whether you are male or female, if you are or have been in a relationship with someone who is harassing you or being violent or abusive towards you, then these injunctions may be a way forward to improve your protection. They also apply to a wider family setting so that abuse from other family members is covered. Where abuse is coming from someone outside the family or relationship, then orders are also available under the Protection from Harassment Act.

Recent cases have made it clear that courts will look closely at each family’s circumstances, such as the effect that violence or arguments between the parents have on the children, and even if the harm alleged is quite minimal, they may take the decision to exclude the abuser from the shared house. The courts are increasingly taking their protective role very seriously.

If you have any concerns about domestic violence, you can download our factsheet or feel free to give Adam, Gail, Simon or Sue a call on 01223 443333.


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