For the first time since 1990, England has entered the semi-finals of the World Cup. Outside of the United States, watching the soccer championship unfold live on television is virtually mandatory. Nearly 20 million people watched England’s historic victory over Sweden last week on the BBC alone.
With the stakes so high for Britain’s home team to deliver a win, the UK’s National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has launched a campaign with shocking statistics linking sports-viewing with violence. Research analyzing domestic violence figures when England played games in the 2002, 2006, and 2010 World Cups found that incidents of domestic abuse rose sharply by 38 percent when the England team lost and increased by 26 percent even when the team won compared to statistics found when England didn’t have a match. In other words, the average incidence of domestic violence on days when England played was 79.3 compared to 58.2 on the days when the team did not play.
Quoted in a 2013 study on the correlation between domestic abuse and soccer for the Journal of Crime and Delinquency, a police officer stated, “The World Cup appears a reason for many to party, however delight and expectation can turn into despair and conflict with the kick of a ball.”
NCDV’s campaign contains a series of brutal images with captions like, “If England gets beaten, so will she.” The photo connected to that line depicts a woman’s face with a bloody nose, which drips across her face and mouth to evoke the red-and-white cross of the English flag. There are several other iterations of this motif, including bandages over a red gash on a woman’s face for Switzerland and yellow bruising near a darkened wound on a man’s face for Belgium.
The relationship between domestic violence and sports culture is not specific to Europe; the United States also suffers from similar issues, especially when it comes to American football. In 2014, advocates for domestic abuse victims produced their own anti-violence campaign during the Super Bowl as a protest against the National Football League’s (NFL) leniency toward Ray Rice, who was initially suspended for only two games after being arrested for domestic violence. Photoshopping CoverGirl’s NFL-themed cosmetics line, protesters superimposed bruises onto the models’ faces. Spreading the image around social media, the group must have caught the NFL’s attention. Roger Goodell, the league’s commissioner, later made Rice’s suspension indefinite. Goodell even made a public apology for his poor handling of the situation.
If you are anyone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available to contact online or by phone at 1-800-799-7233.