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The ugly side of the beautiful game

As the European Football Championship approaches, anticipation and national pride swell across the nation. Will this be England’s year?  Yet, amongst the excitement, there is an uglier side to the beautiful game that often goes unnoticed: the increase in domestic abuse linked to major football tournaments.

Multiple studies and reports have confirmed the correlation between England playing football and spikes in domestic abuse incidents.  Research by Lancaster University shows a 38% increase in reports when England loses and a 26% increase whether they win or draw, as well as an 11% increase the next day regardless of the outcome.

The link between football and domestic abuse is complex.  Domestic abuse doesn’t just happen during football tournaments; it happens all year round, to women, to men, and to children from all communities and walks of life.  Domestic abuse is not caused by football; perpetrators of abuse operate because of their desire for power and control.

However, the stats don’t lie and the cultural and social environment surrounding major tournaments clearly contribute to a rise in abusive behaviour.  The intense sense of national identity and masculinity associated with being a football fan, coupled with the “us vs. them” mentality often driven by media narratives, can fuel aggression.  Alcohol consumption also contributes to the problem.  Increased drinking can lead to a lowering of inhibitions, which in turn leads to an increase in hate crimes, sexual violence, and domestic abuse.  Which is not to say that alcohol is an excuse for domestic abuse or any violence; there is no excuse.

Preparing for an increase in calls

So, while much of the country will be excited to watch the next England game, there will be plenty of women and children who will be dreading the result, whatever it is.  At Embrace Child Victims of Crime, over 40% of the children and young people we support have been victims of domestic abuse, and we are preparing for an increase in referrals, knowing that the earlier we can provide trauma-informed therapeutic support, the better the outcome for the children and young people we support.

“We know from research and from the support we provide that domestic abuse can have a profound and long-lasting impact on children and they can themselves be at significant risk of harm.” Kayleigh Dalton, Embrace National Lead for Domestic Abuse

However, there is a significant lack of funding across the country to provide the support that is needed.

What are the signs to look out for?

The only person to blame for domestic abuse is the perpetrator, but everyone can play a part in keeping victims safe by remaining alert to the signs. Domestic abuse is not solely about black eyes and broken bones.  It can involve a catalogue of coercive and abusive behaviours, from economic abuse (restricting ability to work or access to money), tech abuse (bombarding with unwanted messages, monitoring social media), sexual abuse (forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to), and coercive control (controlling behaviour, dictating where you go, who you see, and what you do).  If you are worried that a friend, family member, or colleague is being abused, signs to look out for are physical injuries, isolation, sudden changes in behaviour, appearing fearful or on edge, having to be accountable to a partner or family member, or a lack of access to personal income.

Children may also exhibit signs such as sudden behavioural changes, becoming quiet and withdrawn, displaying anxiety, isolating themselves, or losing interest in activities they usually enjoy.

Domestic abuse affects more people than many realise with 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experiencing it in their lifetime.  Victims often feel isolated, frightened, and alone, but there is support available, and they will be believed.  If you believe you, or someone else, is in immediate danger, call 999.

You can also call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or visit  If you have children who may need help to recover from their experiences, visit or call us on 0345 6099960.

“Children are quite rightly classed as victims in their own right if they live in a household where domestic abuse is perpetrated, thanks to the much welcomed Domestic Abuse Bill. It is essential to support these children, by providing safe spaces for them to share their experiences as well as providing them with specialist safety planning advice and support.” Jenny Raine, Head of Service Delivery at Embrace

Creating safer communities

Domestic abuse doesn’t just occur during football tournaments, there are women, children and men living with these despicable offences 365 days a year.  Everyone needs to play a role in creating a safer community, all the time.

Men- and women – need to call out misogynistic behaviour when they see it. Perpetrators must be held accountable, and services must be made available to address their behaviour. We need to raise awareness of the services and help that are available to victims and survivors so that they can see there are other options and we need to make sure that children and young people know what a healthy relationship looks like and that domestic abuse is not ‘ok’ in any circumstance.

As the Euros kick-off

Over the next few weeks, while the Euros are on, check in on loved ones, ask if they are okay, and provide opportunities for them to confide in a safe and supportive environment if they need to.

While the perpetrators are solely to blame for their actions, everyone can play a part in supporting those affected and helping to create a safer community.  By staying alert, reporting suspicious behaviour and supporting those harmed, we can work together to mitigate the darker side of football.  With 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experiencing domestic abuse, it is likely that someone you know needs your help.

So, whatever the outcome of Euro 2024, remember that there is help, we will listen, we will hear you, you will be believed, and we will support you.

Emma Fleming