LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Reports of domestic violence increase significantly on days of certain football matches, according to a Scottish study published on Friday.
In some cases, reports of domestic abuse doubled on match days. The research suggests particularly important games or those against a traditional rival are associated with higher recorded rates of domestic violence.
The study, commissioned by the Scottish government, comes as it considers making domestic abuse a specific criminal offence.
Experts from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research reviewed studies from the last 25 years in Scotland, the United Kingdom and United States.
"All the research we looked at suggested there was an increase in domestic abuse reports around football matches ... But what we don't know so well is why that link might be there," said the report's co-ordinator Oona Brooks.
The University of Glasgow criminologist said it would be too simplistic to suggest that football caused domestic violence.
"Domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling behaviour rather than a discrete incident; linking its occurrence to a particular football match or sporting event may simply reinforce the idea that it is an infrequent act, triggered only at these times."
Some studies showed reports increased when a team won, perhaps because of greater aggression and alcohol consumption. But other research indicated the opposite. Several studies suggested the real difference was if the outcome was unexpected.
The increase was more marked at weekends when both alcohol consumption and reports of domestic violence to the police are known to increase.
One study showed domestic abuse incidents rose between 13 and 138 percent on match days between Scotland's big rivals Celtic and Rangers.
But Brooks said policing practices might have an impact. Heavier policing at high profile matches may mean abuse is more likely to be picked up.
She said there was a frustrating lack of research into the reasons behind the increase of abuse reports and called for further investigation.The report will be used in the development of a Scottish government strategy for tackling violence against women.
"The Scottish government is absolutely clear that there is no excuse and no place for domestic abuse in Scotland and only this week announced our plans to consult on a specific domestic abuse offence," said Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.
(Reporting by Emma Batha, Editing by Ros Russell)