It is well-known that major sporting events can have an impact on domestic violence rates. Peaks in incidents occur during significant events involving alcohol such as football matches. The increase in alcohol consumption during the 2020 European Football Championship triggered a ‘grimly predictable’ surge in domestic violence after the final whistle, which was ‘entirely driven’ by men abusing their partners after drinking. Domestic abuse is estimated to have risen by around 38% after England’s Italian defeat.
Moreover, a recent study on Manchester squads shows that this effect on is not dependent on heightened emotions after victory or defeat. Here, abuse by perpetrators who had consumed alcohol decreased during a football match but increased by 5% every two hours after close of play and peaked around ten hours later – regardless of the result. That peak represents 14.5% incidents more every two hours: incidents of abuse rise faster and for longer when alcohol is involved.
In comparison, domestic abuse caused by a non-alcoholised perpetrators remains more stable. If heightened emotions were the predominant mechanism for abuse, we would expect that non-alcoholised abuse also increases more than usual after the game. Importantly, the increases in abuse driven by perpetrators that had consumed alcohol are most pervasive for pre-7pm games. Therefore, it is the consumption of alcohol by the perpetrator and the opportunity for longer consumption that makes the most difference for domestic abuse. This supports a causal relationship between ‘day drinking’ and abuse, which is also relevant for Covid-19– with nearly half of British ‘drinkers’ starting earlier than before.
At Vardags we noticed an increase in enquires where alcohol was mentioned as an issue after lockdown took effect. By comparison, there was a drop drop in alcohol-related enquiries after September 2020, which corresponded with a more positive pandemic landscape: September heralded £500m of funding for COVID-19 testing, the launch of Test & Trace and termly return to English schools. This reflects the hypothesis that pandemic-anxiety and domestic containment drove alcohol consumption – resulting in heightened family tension and abuse. In the throes of the pandemic, a greater proportion of Vardags’ clients needed to escape from bitter – and boozy - relationships.
Returning to the Euros, the National Centre for Domestic Violence explained that the spike in referrals for protective court orders during the tournament may just be the tip of the iceberg and “because victims of domestic abuse generally wait until ‘the storm has passed’ many more could seek help over the coming months– if they do at all. With the UK’s meandering journey out of lockdown currently feeling very fragile, ongoing financial insecurity coupled with the lingering threat of unforeseen variants means the “storm cloud” of Covid-19 has yet to clear – and thus the true increase in domestic violence has yet to become fully visible. Whilst alcohol consumption can be traced by sales figures (and a diminishing cellar), nuanced cases of domestic violence continue to infect couples of tomorrow. With pubs back on the circuit, and one-click alcohol-suppliers still popular, it remains unclear how badly the Covid-hangover will continue to impact family homes and domestic abuse rates.