State Of Origin Leads To Domestic Violence Surge, Crime Stats Show

DV rates up 40 percent on Origin football nights between 2012-17.

What you need to know
  • New research shows big spikes in both domestic and non-domestic assault on the night of Origin games
  • DV and alcohol researchers say sport needs to re-evaluate its relationship with alcohol
  • Calls to phase out booze advertising and sponsorship
  • "If it can be done with tobacco, it can be done with alcohol."

Domestic violence rates on the day of State of Origin football games are more than 40 percent higher than average in NSW, according to a shocking new study of state crime statistics.

On the eve of game two of the 2018 series, set for Sunday night in Sydney, experts are calling for the National Rugby League to re-evaluate its policies around violence and alcohol sponsorship.

La Trobe University's Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, using data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research between 2012 and 2017, found large spikes reported in both domestic and non-domestic assault between 6pm on the night of Origin games and 6am the following morning.

Maroons and Blues players fight during Game 1 of the 2018 State of Origin series (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

The research compared game nights -- always on Wednesdays --  to Wednesdays before and after the games, finding reported rates of domestic violence to be 40.7 percent higher than average, and reported rates of non-domestic violence 71.8 percent higher than average.

"This is a significant and consistent spike across the three-game series in each and every one of the years examined," said CAPR deputy director, Dr Michael Livingston.

The study compared crime statistics from Victoria -- a state chosen for its comparatively lower interest in the rugby league series -- on the same nights, finding no statistically significant increase in that state.

A large Carlton Dry ad painted on the field during an Origin game (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

ten daily has contacted the NRL for comment.

Alcohol and sport

Both Origin teams are sponsored by alcohol brands -- XXXX for Queensland, Toohey's New for NSW -- while other booze labels like Bundaberg Rum and Carlton Dry have had close associations and sponsorships with rugby league in recent years.

“It’s crystal clear that the State of Origin fixtures are leading to a surge in domestic violence. It’s happening on the National Rugby League’s watch and women and children are being harmed as a direct consequence of these games,” said Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief executive, Michael Thorn.

The Maroons are sponsored by XXXX beer, and the Blues by Tooheys New (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

“The drivers of domestic violence are complex and many, however, the disturbing findings released today suggest the State of Origin’s particular celebration of heavy drinking, masculinity, tribalism, and the toxic level of aggressive alcohol promotion have collided in such a way as to encourage drinking to excess and domestic violence."

Experts respond - "It's like a tantrum"

Events like Christmas, Easter and school holidays have been recognised by many domestic violence workers as problem times for the crime, due to heightened stress and families being brought together. Karen Willis, executive officer of the NSW-based Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, told ten daily that workers in the sector had been aware of the sports link for some time.

"There is an increase in alcohol consumption, but alcohol doesn't cause domestic violence, it just reduces inhibitions. It's putting people in an environment they might not normally be in, and if there's something they're not happy about, they will take it out on their partner," she said.

"It could be if their team loses, or if the food at the party isn't cooked properly, whatever stupid reason. There is sometimes a creation of expectations this will be a fun night, and if it's not, that gives people an excuse to take it out on their partner."

"It says a lot about the maturity of the perpetrator. It’s like a tantrum."

Domestic violence spikes around State of Origin games

The CAPR report did not look at domestic violence rates in Queensland, the other team in the annual series against NSW. Toni Meyer, acting general manager for the Working Against Violence support service near Brisbane, said she was not aware of similar jumps in domestic assault reports around Origin in her state.

"I don't know of any spike in demand for services here, or at the statewide service where I was for 10 years," she told ten daily.

"We always get a lot of referrals after hours or the following day from police and women on a normal day, but there was nothing that made us sit up and notice [around football ganes]. That was over a 10 year time frame. I’ve been at this service for about 15 months and haven't noticed any trend like that."

"It infuriates me"

Sarah is a victim of domestic violence. She's also a rugby league fan, but said she stopped watching the NRL this year in protest of several convicted domestic abusers being allowed to play in the league and earn big money.

"I will not tolerate that. I won't support a league that allows domestic violence criminals to play," she told ten daily.

"It infuriates me. The message to fans [from the league] is that footy players can get away with it, so can they. It's not sending a good message all round."

Alcohol policy experts have pointed to the domestic violence data as another reason for rugby league, and sport in general, to re-evaluate its relationship with alcohol.

"It's disgraceful. You cant think about NRL without alcohol. There's the heavy promotion, it's so synonymous, and in over half of domestic violence cases, alcohol is involved," Dr Melanie Pescud, of FARE, told ten daily.

"If the sponsorship was considerably reduced, we might see a reduction in violence. That would be my hope."

While alcohol brands pump large amounts of money into rugby league and other sports, Pescud said the leagues could sustain the financial hit, pointing to how sport responded following the banning of tobacco advertising. Australia's national rugby league premiership was formerly named the Winfield Cup.

"They need to look at the clear association between alcohol and violence. These codes need to come out and acknowledge this, say how shocked and appalled they are, and outline what measures they will take," she said.

"I would want alcohol sponsorship out. If it can be done with tobacco, it can be done with alcohol."

"There are so many massive companies available, and more appropriately aligned with sport. Sport has survived without tobacco."

​If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, dial 000. If you need help and advice, call 1800Respect on 1800 737 732, or Lifeline on 13 11 14. A range of domestic and family violence resources based around the country can be found here.