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With the World Cup in Qatar kicking off on 20th November, the West Midlands Victims’ Commissioner, Nicky Brennan, has called on football fans to enjoy the games without ruining them for others with abusive behaviour.

Supporters are being urged to cut out any inappropriate behaviour towards women, and to step in and call out others that they see crossing the line.

The call for fans to step up applies to those watching the games at large gatherings or in bars, and for those watching at home.

The troubling relationship between football and domestic violence is well-known. A 2014 study found that reported cases of intimate partner violence increased by 38% when England lost and by 26% when they won or drew in the tournament. Further, the Euro 2020 tournament (held in 2021) saw a spike in case referrals to the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV).

But thousands of other fans are expected to watch games away from home at screenings across the region over the next month, and those group viewings can be a setting for sexual abuse and harassment.

While there have been positive strides made in football with well-received campaigns such as Her Game Too and EE’s Hope United, there is plenty to be done to make watching football a safe and inclusive environment for all.

The West Midlands Victims’ Commissioner said, “Anyone who knows me will know how much I love my football, and I’m really excited for the tournament. But we also know that there’s a deep-rooted problem when it comes to watching football and sexual abuse so I’m calling on all fans, whoever you’re supporting, to put an end to it.”

“Win, lose or draw, there is absolutely no excuse for abuse. We need to have a real zero-tolerance approach to sexual assault and harassment of any kind. Though ultimately the blame lies with perpetrators of this behaviour, all fans have their part to play in this by being allies and calling out anyone they see behaving in this way.”

Results from a West Midlands-based YouGov survey in May found that only 26% of respondents had ever called out inappropriate behaviour despite the majority believing that they would feel comfortable doing so. 55% said they’d step in if they heard verbal sexual harassment 55%, 76% said they’d intervene if they saw someone being physically harassed, and 75% said they’d do so if they witnessed unwanted sexual touching.

There is more than one way to intervene in a situation, it doesn’t have to be a confrontation.

People can notify someone else (a bartender, police officer etc), distract the perpetrator and divert their attention, or, if they feel comfortable, confront the harasser directly in a safe manner.

If there is a likely threat of violence towards the victim of harassment or others, then onlookers should prioritise the safety of all and contact the police by calling 999.

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