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World News

Bring football home, but not violence: Christians warn against an increase in domestic abuse during World Cup

by Donna Birrell

As the World Cup continues in Qatar, Christians are raising concerns that big sporting events can lead to an increase in domestic violence - particularly against women. 

In a video message marking UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Bishop of Tonbridge, Rt Rev Simon Burton-Jones said that while "football may not be coming home, let's make the promise that violence won't come home either."

Bekah Legg is CEO of the charity Restored which equips churches to respond to domestic abuse. She's said violence against women often increases during sporting tournaments.

"The reality is that there's a real correlation between the rates of domestic abuse and these big sporting events and football really is the biggest of them all," she said.

"The reason is that in families that already have violence and abuse, when anything comes in that heightens emotions, then it raises the risk. 

"Even if your team is doing well there's something even in euphoria that actually heightens emotions. All that extra alcohol as well, it exacerbates what's already underneath and families where that happens live in fear of these moments. They're waiting for it to come home.

"Alcohol doesn't cause domestic abuse. But what it does do is take away people's control. It makes them more likely [to commit violence]. But actually, it's their underlying beliefs and attitudes underlying other things that are the real problem. But alcohol doesn't help, it doesn't help at all."

Recent figures from the child protection charity NSPCC, found that during the previous football World Cup contacts to its Helpline about domestic abuse jumped by a third (33 per cent) on the monthly average, reaching more than 1,000.

Despite the worrying statistics, Bekah Legg said people now feel more able to speak up about the issue.

"I think that as church, as an organisation, as a country, we have done a lot more to speak up and raise awareness of domestic abuse," she said. "I think that's made more people feel more comfortable to come forward and say they need help. It means that we can support them, we can start making a difference." 

The charity Restored is taking part in The Red Chair Project, which aims to speak out for women and girls who have lost their lives to violence. It involves reserving an empty chair in a public place, with a sign that highlights facts about domestic violence. The empty chair acts as a symbol of the many women who've been killed through gender-based violence.


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