Domestic violence warnings as football festival gets under way

By staff writers
June 11, 2010

As communities plan World Cup 2010 parties and pubs prepare for record business, campaigners and support workers are warning about a rise in domestic violence.

During the 2006 football World Cup in Germany, social scientists noted a significantly increased trend towards marital and relationship tension, domestic violence and divorce in the aftermath of the competition.

As the 2010 tournament gets under way in South Africa, watched by 2.4 billion people across the world, including millions in the UK - and especially England - NGOs like the Stepping Stones Spurgeons Family Support Project in Small Heath, Birmingham, are prepared to give support to those who do not hit the newspaper headlines - including frightened women and children on the receiving end of violence.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has reported that violence in the home increased by an average of 25 per cent on England match days during the last World Cup.

Annually, reported rates of domestic abuse in Birmingham are among the highest in the country, points outs Stepping Stones manager, Jeanette Mulcare.

"The World Cup should be a time for celebration and fun, not fear," she declared.

During the past two seasons, football authorities and fan groups in the UK, through 'Kick It Out' campaigns, have encouraged awareness and response to violence against women in particular, and other kinds of bigotry and racism that can creep into the game.

Ms Mulcare has pioneered the 'Freedom' Programme in Birmingham, Britain's second largest city. This is a community based training and education course for women, delivered by Stepping Stones Spurgeons.

Those taking part gain a better understanding about both the myths and the true dynamics of abuse, she says.

The programme also provides access to other specialist support agencies and empowers women to make positive and informed choices. It is delivered at all times of the year, not just during football's international showcase.

"It gives women the chance to see they are not the only ones it happens to and that it is not their fault," says Ms Mulcare.

Stepping Stones Spurgeons launched the programme almost three years ago when Ms Mulcare recognised abuse as a major factor for four out of five families referred to the project.

The Birmingham Safety Partnership 2008's monitoring suggests that each year some 26,000 women will be affected by a significant incident involving violence, and 33,000 children will have witnessed one.

There are Spurgeons children's centres and family support projects across England. All work with families who have experienced domestic violence.

Meanwhile, Relate and other counselling organisations are prepared for clients who may be under relationship pressure over the summer.

They say that the media is talking up a supposed 'World Cup factor' in divorce somewhat.

Publicity has been galvanised by celebrity former 'WAG' and singing star Cheryl Cole, who has announced that she will be throwing a 'divorce party' during the 2010 World Cup after the high profile end of her marriage to her cheating husband Ashley Cole, the Chelsea football star - who is out in South Africa with Fabio Capello's England squad.

England takes on the USA in their first match on Saturday 12 June.


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