By Daniel Speirs
A study carried out by researchers at the University of St. Andrews has revealed strong links between Old Firm football matches and increases in domestic violence.
While Police and support groups have long reported sharp increases in domestic violence following such sporting events, this study is the first time that conclusive evidence of a direct association has been provided.
21 Old Firm matches from 2008-2011 were studied, with academics examining incidents of physical, sexual and emotional abuse reported to Strathclyde Police from a 24 hour period after kick-off.
They found that an average of 121 attacks took place during this timeframe in the former Strathclyde Police area, while an average of 66 were recorded on the same day the following week.
The researchers described the jump as “statistically significant”, with “compelling evidence” confirming the link between Old Firm fixtures and a spike in cases of domestic abuse.
The study also looked into the effect of Scotland’s national team matches and found only a slight increase- up to an average of 72 – in domestic abuse cases in the following 24 hour period.
Dr Damien Williams, lecturer in Public Health sciences at the University of St. Andrews and leader of the study, said: “Our preliminary analysis confirms previous speculation concerning the association between Old Firm matches and reports of domestic violence.
“Our approach may underestimate the true impact of Old Firm matches on domestic violence, as not all incidents are reported to the Police, but it nonetheless offers a conservative estimate of the severity of the problem.”
But Celtic and Rangers refute the allegations that matches between the two clubs were to blame for the jump in figures.
A spokesperson for Celtic said: “Before making such judgements, it would be valuable and relevant to also ensure investigations into other major events, sporting and otherwise, are carried out. It is far too simplistic to blame football for these wider societal issues.”
In their own statement, Rangers said: “As the club has stated on many occasions in the past, football clubs have a responsibility to do what they can to raise awareness of social issues. However, there are many contributing factors and it is the responsibility of society as a whole to address them.”