State of Origin nights see a 40 per cent increase on average in domestic assault and about a 70 per cent increase in non-domestic assaults, research shows.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, which commissioned the study is calling on rugby league administrators to do more to reverse the trend.
The data was drawn from six years from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).
Researchers looked at the Wednesday nights from two weeks before the State of Origin series to two weeks following.
The study compared the rates of violence between State of Origin Wednesdays and regular Wednesdays.
Dr Michael Livingstone from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at Latrobe analysed the data for the foundation.
“It’s not an unusual thing to find spikes in violence or other problems around big events,” Dr Livingstone said.
“But these are really quite significant jumps.”
To explore the causal connection between the games and the violence levels, researchers looked at Victorian data, where State of Origin is not as big an event as it is in NSW.
They found levels of violence on State of Origin Wednesdays in Victoria were no different to other Wednesdays.
“It’s pretty suggestive that there’s something about the big events around the games that are causing these problems in NSW,” Dr Livingstone said.
Research done in England around the World Cup and in the US around American football shows similar spikes in domestic violence when high-profile sporting events take place.
“Especially where that sport is the kind of masculine, main aggressive sport in that culture, the way rugby league is in Australia, soccer is in England and American Football is in the US,” Dr Livingstone said.
Consequences at home
Anabelle Daniels, CEO of Women’s Community Shelters says there is a reported increase in referrals to crisis shelters the day after major sporting events in NSW.
She said it would be interesting to see whether there were different figures on nights when there was a loss.
“I think there is such a strong sporting culture around the combination of alcohol and gambling and winning that can potentially be quite toxic in certain situations,” Ms Daniels said.
“Where sport is interlaced with issues of alcohol and gambling as part of the experience, then that can potentially have consequences at home.”
And it’s not always a matter of physical violence, according to Ms Daniels.
“If someone’s been paid, they’ve taken the family’s spending money and blown it all on gambling on a big event and lost, that can have a pretty significant impact for the family,” she said.
Ms Daniels said it would be useful to look at broader patterns across various sporting events.
“NSW has a suspect target management plan where known domestic and family violence are kept under close watch by the police,” Ms Daniels said.
She suggests that police could use information about sporting events to assist with prevention or early intervention.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education is calling for the NRL to acknowledge a link between sport and domestic violence.
Ms Daniels says the NRL has done some excellent work with the players in terms of respect and education.
“What you really need is a wholistic approach of all groups working together — the clubs, peak bodies, the sporting community, and all of the fans to help solve this problem,” she said.
“It might even be a matter of fans calling each other out where they see bad behaviour in fellow fans.”
Dr Livingstone said there needed to be more research, including looking at the role that promotions and sponsorship have in promoting the cultural connection between the big games, alcohol and violence.
“There’s definitely work to be done there,” he said.
Family violence support services:
1800 Respect national helpline 1800 737 732
Women’s Crisis Line 1800 811 811
Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491
Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
Relationships Australia 1300 364 277