Sport spectatorship in the UK is often intimately associated with increased alcohol consumption, which can exacerbate violent behaviour and perpetrators of domestic abuse are known to use these links as an excuse to further their violence.
“There’s something in our culture that allows for people to say, ‘oh it was just the football, we had a bit too much to drink’,” Nazeer continues. “None of that is acceptable or tolerable. Alcohol consumption and high emotions attached to the game should never be used as an excuse for abuse.”
These factors put domestic abuse victims at greater vulnerability at a time when the country has seen a rise in cases reported since the start of the pandemic.
The charity Refuge said it has seen a 61 per cent surge in calls and contacts logged by its 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline over the course of the pandemic.
Nazeer described the pandemic as the “perfect storm” where people experiencing abuse have not been able to leave their homes or access support.
“We are really hesitant to attribute domestic abuse to external factors but it’s clear the pandemic was used as a tool in which to increase abuse, to increase fear and anxiety, and to increase control and coercion,” she said.
“We spoke to significant numbers of survivors who felt that the domestic abuse had intensified in nature, some of these stories were really heartbreaking. There were reports of women being spat on, perpetrators using shielding or self-isolation to stop women from being able to access support services or withholding food and medicine.
“For these victims, the level of abuse became far more intense during the pandemic and it became far harder to escape the violence.”
Instead of blaming football and booze, charities want the football community to call out sexist behaviour and reinforce message that domestic violence is always unacceptable.
“The Euros are a chance for us to raise awareness of domestic abuse and to call on the community to take a stand against abuse,” Nazeer said. “There’s an opportunity for cultural change and a shift in perceptions around domestic abuse.
Refuge’s chief executive, Ruth Davison, said: “As the Euros progress, our message to women and girls experiencing domestic abuse remains clear: You are not alone, Refuge is here for you.
“While of course football tournaments do not cause abuse – abuse is a choice a perpetrator makes – they can exacerbate pre-existing abusive behaviours. Abuse doesn’t come ‘by appointment’ – it happens all your round.”
If you have been affected by domestic abuse, you can find help and support at https://www.womensaid.org.uk or contact the Refuge 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline at 0808 2000 247.