Domestic abuse increases following football games – and this increase is driven by alcohol-related abuse, a new study from the London School of Economics and Political Science finds.
The research from the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) reveals that the increase in domestic abuse occurs when football games are scheduled at midday or in the afternoon. There is no increase in domestic abuse when games kick-off after 7pm.
The findings have prompted the authors to call for more weekday matches and evening kick-offs to reduce possible drinking time - as well as more action on reducing alcohol consumption.
Neus Torres-Blas, occasional research assistant at CEP, said: “About one in three women in the United Kingdom, and worldwide, report having experienced domestic abuse at one point in their lives, but there is limited evidence about what triggers domestic violence. We find that the dynamics of domestic abuse change during and after football games.”
In the discussion paper Football, alcohol and domestic abuse the researchers report a 5 per cent decrease in incidents during the two-hour duration of the game. But, after the game, domestic abuse starts increasing and peaks at about 8.5 per cent more incidents than average around ten hours after the game started.
The analysis combined eight years of uniquely detailed and high-frequency administrative call and crime data from Greater Manchester Police with information on the timing of almost 800 games played by Manchester United and Manchester City between April 2012 and June 2019.
In order to study the effect of football on domestic abuse, the researchers compared hourly rates of abuse on matchdays compared to rates of abuse on the same day of the week and month when matches were not played. On average, there were about nine recorded cases of domestic abuse every two hours across Greater Manchester in the period 2012-2019.
Tom Kirchmaier, director of the policing and crime research group at CEP, said: “We investigated why domestic abuse is likelier to occur in the aftermath of football games and found that the increase is entirely driven by male-on-female abuse by perpetrators who have drunk alcohol. The increase also only seen between partners living together – there was no similar rise in ex-partner domestic abuse.”
The study also rules out the theory that the rise in domestic abuse following game is linked to heightened emotions triggered by a match. The researchers found that on days when betting agencies had predicted a Manchester club would win but the club lost – creating an emotional shock for fans – the increase in domestic abuse was no greater than on the days when a match had turned out as the bookmakers predicted.
Ria Ivandic, lecturer in political economy at the University of Oxford and a research economist at CEP, said: “These results suggest that sporting events do not trigger domestic abuse by themselves, but rather through the excessive alcohol consumption that usually follows these events.”
“Games scheduled at midday or afternoon enable perpetrators to start drinking early and continue throughout the day, leading to a peak in domestic abuse in the late evening by perpetrators who have been drinking. Delaying the start of the games until the evening and scheduling them on weekdays would help prevent a considerable amount of domestic abuse.”
Interim Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council, Professor Alison Park, said: “I’m pleased to see that the Economic and Social Research Council’s continued investment in the Centre for Economic Performance is helping to unearth important findings such as these.
“This research also highlights the huge potential contained within different data sources when these are combined with smart research design and analysis, shedding light on how to reduce serious harm within society.”
Read the full discussion paper here: Football, alcohol and domestic abuse