Experts have uncovered what they say is a clear link between State of Origin nights and surges in domestic violence in NSW.
A study by La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research has found there is as much as a 40 per cent leap in domestic violence on Wednesday nights when Origin games are played, compared with regular Wednesdays.
Worth noting, however, is that the overall percentage increase is off a very small base – typically between 26 and 40 reports per night, with non-domestic violence somewhat higher.
The study, which looked at six years’ of data, also found increased non-domestic assaults in NSW on game days.
While the figures suggest a clear trend there are also anomalies.
In the statistical excerpt reproduced above, for example, only 27 domestic assaults were reported to police on July 4, 2012, while there were 40 reports the following day when no games were played.
Researchers found no statistically-significant spike in Victoria, where there is substantially lower interest in rugby league.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), which commissioned the study, said the drivers of such violence were complex and many. However, the link with Origin fixtures was “crystal clear”, chief executive Michael Thorn said.
“It’s happening on the National Rugby League’s watch, and women and children are being harmed as a direct consequence of these games,” he said.
FARE research manager Dr Melanie Pescud said there was “no magic answer” but that State of Origin should tackle what she characterised as its association with domestic violence head-on.
“The onus is on the NRL to acknowledge the data and outline what measures it will take, both to reduce this violence and to educate and protect the women and children of NSW on State of Origin game night,” she said.
Dr Pescud said remedies could include banning alcohol sponsorship.
“With half of all reported domestic violence incidents in Australia involving alcohol, the saturation of alcohol sponsorship in the Origin series – and the NRL more broadly – is something the code must address,” she said.
“The alcohol industry is clearly spending a lot of money on sponsorship arrangements to encourage people to drink more.”
However, other codes also had strong links with alcohol.
“I don’t think anybody should be off the hook in terms of the surge in domestic violence,” she said. “Everyone’s got a role to play.”
Mr Thorn admitted an increase in domestic violence linked to sporting fixtures was not new, and drew comparisons to the 2010 World Cup in England.
The study’s release comes ahead of the second Origin match at Sydney’s Olympic Park on Sunday. It will feature a “monster marquee” at the “Tooheys New Sheds”, including a 50-metre bar.
The NRL has been contacted for comment.
Christian Democrat Fred Nile had previously introduced a bill to the NSW parliament to impose tough restrictions on alcohol advertising.
Sporting codes criticised the move, saying they were worried about the effect on the revenue for grassroots clubs.
In March, Jaymes Boland-Rudder, the NRL’s head of government and community relations, told a government committee alcohol sponsorship was worth “millions of dollars” to the NRL.
He refused to give an exact figure, citing commercial-in-confidence concerns, but said it constituted about three per cent of revenue.
The committee found strict regulation of alcohol advertising had an “integral role” to play in dealing with the “significant health and social costs” of alcohol-related harm in society.
But it recommended the bill not be passed. Instead, it wanted the government to consider how to phase out alcohol sponsorship in sport over time “in a way that ensures sporting clubs and organisations are not financially disadvantaged”.
- Anyone who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault, the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.