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Do football tournaments raise the level of domestic abuse?

The Euro 2016 football tournament has just kicked off and football fever is amongst us again, but with all those who cheer and rush out to buy a red and white wig and paint parts of their body with a St George’s flag, there are as many who start counting down the days until the final whistle blows and normality returns.

For some, sadly the tournament can turn sour. In 2014 shortly before the last World Cup commenced there were a number of articles in the national newspapers that focused on the risk of domestic abuse incidents rising in England and Wales, the levels of which varied as to whether England won or lost:

As is often the case, there were no post tournament articles that I am aware of which confirmed whether or not the prediction was true and of course we all hope it was not.

Putting that issue aside the football tournament has led me, as a Family Solicitor, to consider whether it could have any other impact on Family Law.

For example, could we see an increase in divorce petitions citing:

“He or she ignored me for a month whilst the Football was on”.

In English divorce law it is possible to divorce your spouse (provided you have been married for more than a year) on the basis of unreasonable behaviour. Unreasonable behaviour however is subjective and has to be shown to be sufficient. Generally you will need four or five more examples to be able to petition for divorce on this basis. So, if your spouse spends the whole of the tournament watching television and ignoring you and also becomes angry or miserable if England loses a game this could be seen as being unreasonable and cited within a divorce petition.

Alternatively, my husband might consider my hopes that Cristiano Ronaldo scores and throws his shirt into the crowd just as unreasonable.

I am not suggesting that a perfectly happy marriage could end up in divorce just because of a football tournament but it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and serves as a reminder that the simplest of actions could, when coupled with other behaviours, be considered unreasonable and cited within a divorce petition.

We must remember that serious incidents do occur, particularly when fuelled by alcohol, whether it be during a football tournament or not, and all those affected should seek the appropriate assistance and legal advice if they are affected in any way.

Louise Ballantyne is a Senior Solicitor within the Family Team and can be contacted on 01733 882 800 or email Louise at

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.