Sunderland academic reveals how the Russian World Cup marked changes in football culture

A Sunderland lecturer claims the link between domestic violence and football is changing.
Paul Davis.Paul Davis.
Paul Davis.

Whenever a major football tournament kicks off, police and domestic violence groups prepare for the worst.

Evidence gathered over several World Cup tournaments shows the event coincides with a rise in male-on-female domestic violence across the UK and several other countries.

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However, as a new domestic football season looms, Sunderland lecturer, Dr Paul Davis, says this summer’s Russia 2018, indicates the pattern of violence might be starting to change.

The senior lecturer in the Sociology of Sport at the University of Sunderland said the type of masculinity most celebrated in the culture of football is an ethos of excess and the denigration of anything feminine.

He said: “Add in high levels of alcohol consumption to the mix, and it only gets worse. The environment of fandom is a fertile site for the release of men’s ‘inner boor’, which might not be quarantined when a man gets back through the front door of the house.”

He said there is no easy or single solution to the problem of domestic violence during the World Cup, but believes inroads are possible.

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Dr Davis said: “The culture of football has seen some genuine and progressive change in recent times. For instance, women and girls are more accepted and more comfortable, as players, officials, commentators, journalists and fans.

“Gay men are not the no-no they once were. Racism is arguably less virulent than before. Literature in the last 25 years or so, most obviously Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, has helped make educated and cultivated men – many middle-class - unabashed about their love of football and their hope of exerting influence on its regressive cultural underbelly.

“Players and managers are often a very different beast from that of 30 or 40 years ago.

“Stadia are, post-Hillsborough, vastly more civilised than in the past. And beyond stadia, people sometimes watch games over a meal in a salubrious pub.”

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While, Dr Davis suggests, there is still a long way to go, he believes the path we are now on is closer than we have even been to cutting the connections between football and hegemonic masculinity, aggression, alcohol, nationalism and gendered violence.

With fans generally praised for their behaviour during Russia 2018, experts believe another positive legacy of the World Cup – much more important than the success of the team on the pitch – can be heightened awareness of our need to break this link between the game and domestic violence.