Not to interfere with anyone’s celebration of Team USA’s defeat of Ghana or anything, but there’s a darker side to the World Cup that’s been drowned out as if by an international vuvuzela: the competition’s ongoing connection to domestic abuse.
Research in the UK has repeatedly demonstrated a disturbing connection between domestic violence and the World Cup. The numbers are shocking: a study conducted by a Lancaster University criminologist monitoring the last three World Cups found that when England lost a match, domestic violence rates in some areas shot up 38%. And in a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” delight, when England won a match, there was still a 26% uptick in domestic abuse.
If this wasn’t distressing enough—sorry there's more!—the research also shows this trend has been worsening with every successive World Cup since 2006, suggesting that this year’s could be the most violent yet. As a result, British police are utilizing extra patrols on game nights and specifically monitoring high-frequency domestic violence perpetrators. The anti-violence charity Women’s Aid has also launched a campaign to bring attention to the issue, encouraging soccer clubs to sign pledges making it clear that violence against women and children is “completely unacceptable.”
Booze, Emotions, Fandom, Abuse
Domestic violence is a complicated phenomenon, but it’s clear that for some people, the highs and lows of matches serve as triggers that were perhaps already lying in wait—especially when game-day booze is factored in. And while it might seem like we're a bit gung-ho about shitting on soccer fans (Americans are kinda famous for that), the sanctioned violence surrounding the sport is undeniable. And the worst part? This isn't some shadowy phenomenon nobody's talking about.
A quick peek at UK Twitter provides a tiny but disturbing clue; if the Everton soccer club suffers a loss, guess what charming hashtag it uses? #evertonwivesrunforyourlives.
Because what's funnier than women living in fear of being beaten when the final buzzer rings? Similarly, soccer fans love to make jokes about footballer and convicted rapist Ched Evans “raping your defenses.” One in every four women will experience violence in their lifetimes; this kind of misogynistic banter transforms an epidemic of fear into a trivialized, bleacher-side taunt.
And yes. You might be thinking, "Those bloody British bastards across the pond are a buncha brutes and didn’t we take their asses out in a war a few hundred years ago? Why are we putting up with their lady-hating bullshit!?"
Alas friends, similar trends are well-documented on our freedom-loving soil, too. Multiple studies conducted stateside document an increase in domestic violence in the hours after football upsets. Just this month, Berkeley professor David Card noted a 10% increase in domestic abuse in the wake of major NFL losses.
Sadly, English billboards’ admonishments to “leave the striking to the players”—part of its domestic violence awareness campaign—would be just as relevant over here in the good 'ol US of A. And, likely, all over the world.