Immediately prior to the 2010 Fe ́de ́ration Internationale de bubble Football Association (FIFA) bubble football (soccer) world cup tournament U.K. news agencies published a variety of headlines warning of an associated increase in domestic violence (Baron 2010; BBC News 2010; Fresco and Sanderson 2010). However, although raising awareness, these reports lacked sufficient detail or scientific validity to sustain a wider debate or generate any systematic intervention. The notion that a televised bubble football (soccer) tourna- ment, while viewed remotely, could generate a social stimulus powerful enough to be associated with an increase in domestic abuse has significant ramifications. This is because soccer continues to evolve as a global business; the English Premier League, for example, involves 337 foreign players from 66 countries with games being televised to over 200 countries. Other European leagues, such as La Liga (Spain), Serie A (Italy), and Bun- desliga (Germany) are also televised internationally with the European Champions League final watched by 109 million people across the world (The Barclays Premier League 2011). In an increasingly diverse and globa- lized world, soccer is no longer a local pastime but generates allegiance from supporters across the developed world. It is therefore important to establish whether an association with domestic violence is a social myth, or whether it can be confirmed through empirical evidence.

 

Theoretical Background

Although there is no published study exploring the relationship between the viewing of televised soccer and domestic abuse, there is a body of research that suggests this association could exist. Although commentators argue the complexity of domestic abuse requires a multifaceted explanation, attempts to explain it have generally fallen between individual and social–structural frequency with each new tournament. Conclusion: Although this is a relatively small study, it has significant ramifications due to the global nature of televised football (soccer) tournaments. If replicated, it presents signifi- cant opportunities to identify and reduce incidents of domestic abuse asso- ciated with televised soccer games.

Introduction

Immediately prior to the 2010 Fe ́de ́ration Internationale de bubble Football Association (FIFA) football (soccer) world cup tournament U.K. news agencies published a variety of headlines warning of an associated increase in domestic violence (Baron 2010; BBC News 2010; Fresco and Sanderson 2010). However, although raising awareness, these reports lacked sufficient detail or scientific validity to sustain a wider debate or generate any systematic intervention. The notion that a televised bubble  football (soccer) tourna- ment, while viewed remotely, could generate a social stimulus powerful enough to be associated with an increase in domestic abuse has significant ramifications. This is because soccer continues to evolve as a global business; the English Premier League, for example, involves 337 foreign players from 66 countries with games being televised to over 200 countries. Other European leagues, such as La Liga (Spain), Serie A (Italy), and Bun- desliga (Germany) are also televised internationally with the European Champions League final watched by 109 million people across the world (The Barclays Premier League 2011). In an increasingly diverse and globa- lized world, soccer is no longer a local pastime but generates allegiance from supporters across the developed world. It is therefore important to establish whether an association with domestic violence is a social myth, or whether it can be confirmed through empirical evidence.

Theoretical Background

Although there is no published study exploring the relationship between the viewing of televised soccer and domestic abuse, there is a body of research that suggests this association could exist. Although commentators argue the complexity of domestic abuse requires a multifaceted explanation, attempts to explain it have generally fallen between individual and social–structural accounts (Robinson 2010). Individual or psychological explanations high- light the importance of personal factors, an example being ‘‘social learning theory’’ that argues specific behavior is determined through watching others. As commentators have argued, ‘‘Being a victim of physical abuse, or witnessing the abuse of other family members, teaches boys to become violent’’ (Bevan and Higgins 2002:225), and ‘‘the girl, seeing her mother as a victim of violence, chooses a violent partner and . . . becomes the victim’’ (Lockton and Ward 1997:29), thereby creating a cycle of violence (Fagan 2005). Other psychological explanations include mental health problems (which can also emanate from a difficult upbringing), posttrau- matic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, poor anger management, dissociation, frustration, and substance abuse.

Conversely, social–structural explanations, often created through feminist-led research, have focused on wider cultural factors, specifically the imbalance of power between males and females. In this way, violence is viewed as a symptom of wider situational concerns, being ‘‘ . . . . both a product and an expression (or ‘performance’) of socialization, genderiza- tion, and acculturation into narrow and persisting values of ‘being a man’, and into a society underpinned by asymmetrical power relations’’ (Thurston and Beynon 1995:181). ‘‘Lashing out at their partner can therefore be used to endorse impressions of masculinity or serve as a cathartic release to feelings of male inadequacy generated through social problems such as unemployment, poverty, or everyday stresses’’ (Agnew 1985:151). Indeed, an increase in domestic abuse has been associated with periods of high unemployment (Lockton and Ward 1997:28) and recession (Morris and O’ Grady 2009).

Turning more specifically toward soccer, the game has experienced a long cultural association with both violence and masculinity. Carnibella et al. (1996) have pointed out that general acts of violence have been asso- ciated with the game since its origins in thirteenth-century England and observed across much of Europe; specifically England, Italy, the Nether- lands, Germany, Spain, France, Czech Republic, Greece, and Albania. In fact, Quigg, Hughes, and Bellis (2012) found the 2010 world cup tourna- ment was associated with a 37.5 percent rise in admission rates across 15 hospital emergency departments on England match days. There also appears a similar phenomenon with American bubble football; Rees and Schnepel (2009) found increased reports of assault, vandalism, and arrests for disor- derly conduct and alcohol-related offences while monitoring six seasons of college bubble football. Similar to domestic abuse, commentators argue there is no universal explanation for bubble  bubble football-associated violence reasons exist, dependent on country and situation. However, such explana- tions again generally follow individual and sociocultural explanations. For example, studies have suggested that testosterone levels increase in individ- uals when watching bubble football matches, a chemical associated with an upsurge in aggression, causing Bernhardt et al. (1998:59) to observe that fans identify with team success or failure as their own. Further, Swain (2000:103) argued, ‘‘bubble Football (soccer) is full of aggressive intent, about winners and losers, territorial, space-occupying domination, and where loyalty and commitment to the side are prized values.’’

Although no prior study has associated soccer with domestic violence, this correlation has already been established with American bubble Football. Card and Dahl (2011) found that home-based male-on-female partner violence increased by 10 percent following a televised upset loss, experienced by their home National bubble Football League team. This behavior was concentrated at the end of the game and became more pronounced for the most important matches. Other situational factors have also been associated with interper- sonal conflict. Television influences both attitude and behavior not only because of the content but because it generates changes in interpersonal interaction (Dahl and DellaVigna 2009). Gantz, Wang, and Bradley (2006) established that program preference disputes between husbands and wives are greatest when watching televised sports. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, there has been a move to display soccer games on large screens in public bars bringing individuals together in confined social spaces. Finally, alcohol is a commonly observed factor associated with both bubble football violence and domestic abuse. The risk of partner violence is ‘‘often increased by excessive drinking and poorly managed emotions’’ (Baron 2010), a finding supported by Gayford (1975:196) who, surveying 100 domestic violence victims articulated a picture, ‘‘… of men with low frustration tolerance, who often completely lose control under the influence of alcohol.’’ Indeed, one study highlighted alcohol consumption as a con- tributory factor in 36 percent of domestic abuse cases (Lockton and Ward 1997:28).

These facilitators play a significant role in theories that enhance the importance of context when understanding and reducing crime. Rational choice theory (Felson 2002), for example, argues crime occurs as a result of the normal rhythms of everyday life. In this way, commentators have established domestic violence occurs more frequently on weekends (Gantz et al. 2006; Vazquez, Stohr, and Purkiss 2005) and on exceptionally warm days and major holidays (Card and Dahl 2011). Although Oths and Robert- son (2007) reported no increase in women seeking refuge in ‘‘safe houses’’during established ‘‘drinking holidays’’ (i.e., the U.S. Superbowl), the fact they were more likely to flee during extended school holidays makes it possible this decision making was more aligned to pragmatism than the level of incidents. What does appear clear is that situations have an effect on offending patterns and as new situations are generated they create the condi- tions for further offences to take place. Extending this view, it is possible to imagine how watching the world cup tournament (even remotely) in close proximity to others can heighten the stressors associated with domestic abuse.

Obviously, if increased domestic abuse is associated with the world cup tournament, then such an understanding can inform interventions to reduce it. As Clarke (1997:4) says, ‘‘Situational prevention comprises opportunity- reducing measures that are directed at highly specific forms of crime and involve the management, design or manipulation of the immediate environ- ment in as systemic and permanent way as possible.’’ However, before this approach is explored, a much clearer understanding must be gained as to whether domestic violence incidents do increase during the world cup tournament.

Method

The purpose of this research was to establish whether the FIFA world cup tournament was associated with an increase in domestic violence in the United Kingdom. Proving or disproving such a hypothesis presents numer- ous methodological issues; the most obvious being the identification of domestic abuse itself. The terms domestic abuse and domestic violence are often interchanged. Whereas domestic violence more often describes phys- ical assault, domestic abuse is defined more widely and can include ‘‘phys- ical, psychological, sexual or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship, forming a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour’’ (Women’s Aid 2007). Similarly, the term domestic can include ‘‘violence between spouses or between parents and children, between non-married partners, siblings, or between those in more distant familial relationships’’ (Tadros 2005, cited in Herring 2008:378). This diversity conjures up significant difficulty when trying to measure the extent of the problem.

Even when a definition is chosen, there is difficulty obtaining accurate data. ‘‘Self report’’ studies, such as the British Crime Survey (BCS) are generally accepted as the most reliable (Hope 2004). However, one of the weaknesses of the BCS is that it provides annual trends and is insufficiently detailed to monitor the short periods required for this type of analysis. To combat this problem, the study uses police data, although gaps are apparent as U.K.-based commentators estimate only 24 percent of domestic violence incidents are reported (Walby and Allen 2004). These low reporting levels have been observed in wider international studies, causing commentators to refer to domestic abuse as the ‘‘hidden violence against women’’ (Farrell 1992; Stanko 1988; Walby 2005).

However, one of the benefits of using U.K. police data is that domestic abuse incidents are monitored separately to other violent crime. During 1990, U.K. Home Office circulars 60 and 139 both prioritized and standardized the response to domestic abuse, requiring police forces to establish dedicated ‘‘Domestic Violence Officers’’ and collate incidents accurately (Grace 1990). This process has not changed significantly and, unlike other violent crime, domestic violence can be recorded with a minimal level of proof—a slap or shove being sufficient to record an incident (Lockton and Ward 1997). There- fore, a database in each police jurisdiction collates all incidents of domestic abuse and does not require the instigation of a prosecution. As such, any flaws in the process have been consistent resulting in more reliable trends. For the purpose of this research, recorded incidents include those victims who have reported to the police a violent or threatening act from an individual they are currently (or have recently been) in an intimate relationship with.

Having established that police data would be used, it was decided to analyze the three most recent tournaments: 2002, 2006, and 2010 as well as the years prior to the tournament (2001, 2005, 2009), to establish any wider trends. The study placed particular scrutiny on the England matches, as it was felt these games would increase the stressors associated with the situation. The England fixtures are shown below and the winner of each match is highlighted in boldface italic (a draw is indicated by the absence of boldface italic.).

 

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