Study claims scapegoating football as a trigger for domestic abuse trivialises issue

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SCAPEGOATING football as a trigger for domestic violence risks trivialising the abuse, according to a study.

Researchers claim links of a spike in cases after Old Firm matches and England’s World Cup performance lack reliable data.

Academics found these reports fail to recognise abuse as a pattern of ongoing behaviour.

It comes as part of the first in-depth study of the perceived link between football and domestic violence and abuse (DVA).

Dr Nancy Lombard, reader in sociology and social policy at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “All stakeholders had concerns about the reliability and implications of data suggesting a causal link between football and domestic violence and abuse.

“Participants highlighted concerns about the existing evidence and the need to view violence and abuse as a pattern of ongoing behaviour, which cannot be reduced to an incident associated with a particular event such as a football match.

“Specialist DVA service providers were concerned that focusing on football masks the underlying causes and potentially offers perpetrators excuses for their abusive behaviour.

“Research which suggests potential links between DVA and factors such as football or alcohol has proliferated, and links between them may be misinterpreted, misrepresented and misunderstood.”

Focus groups and one-to-one interviews were conducted in Scotland and England for the study.

Researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Glasgow and the University of Bristol took part in the work.

As well as disputing the link between football and DVA, contributors also questioned the strength of other reported trigger factors.

Previous research was claimed to have “over-simplified” the issue and discount a range of factors, including increased policing on match days, the large number of men who watch the sport and different recording practices between police forces.

The authors found more could be done by governments, the media and supporter agencies to promote anti-violence messaging through sport.

They call on football clubs to highlight the work of local DVA services and reinforce messages about non-abusive relationships.

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