Evidence of a link between Old Firm football matches and a spike in domestic violence has been discovered for the first time by academics studying the behaviour of supporters.
The research, by the University of St Andrews, is the first to confirm long-held beliefs that reports of domestic violence in Glasgow increase following matches between Rangers and Celtic.
The new paper, published online this week, shows a “statistically significant” increase in domestic incidents following all 21 Old Firm matches between 2008 and 2011.
Researchers say the results of the study provide “compelling evidence” of the effect of Old Firm matches on reported domestic cases of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in the 24-hour period after kick-off.
The study was led by Dr Damien Williams, a lecturer in public health sciences.
He said: “Media reports have long suggested that the number of reports of domestic violence appear to increase when Scotland’s two largest, Glasgow-based football clubs, Rangers and Celtic – traditionally referred to as the Old Firm – play one another. These have followed concerns by the Scottish Government, who say that domestic abuse in Scotland is an increasingly visible problem, with the highest prevalence on females in Strathclyde.”
Statistics indicate a year-on-year increase in incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police between 2002 and 2003 (35,877) and 2011 and 2012 (59,847).
The majority of these incidents occurred in the former Strathclyde Police jurisdiction, with the vast majority of victims being female.
Dr Williams added: “However, these reports have been based on crude comparisons of limited data sets.
“Our aim was to develop a robust analytical approach to undertake a preliminary exploration of the association between Old Firm matches and reported domestic incidents in the Strathclyde Police area.”
In the new study, Dr Williams worked with graduate Kirsty House, now at the University of Cambridge, and colleagues Dr Fergus Neville and Professor Peter Donnelly.
The researchers looked at the number of reports of domestic violence incidents to Strathclyde Police following an Old Firm match, including those on Sundays. Reports were based on any form of abuse against a partner, or ex-partner, in the home or elsewhere.
They then compared the figures with those reported for the same 24-hour period seven days after an Old Firm match and also 24 hours after high-profile Scotland international games, played in Glasgow, which would be likely to involve similar amounts of alcohol and expressions of “masculine identity”.
Dr Williams said more cases were reported when the Old Firm matches were played.
Karyn McCluskey, director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, said: “From our experience, domestic violence goes up when Old Firm games are on – but it is good to have this connection made by academics.
“People seem to think this is someone else’s issue but it’s not. If you hear screaming from your neighbours, don’t turn the television up – take action and report it to the police.”