Let’s tackle domestic abuse through football

As a wife and mum of avid Liverpool FC fans, I know well the power of sport.

As irritating as it is to admit, I must concede that football is a religion with the power to dictate the success of our weekends, depending on the latest match results. Whilst I don’t claim to have an affection for the sport, I think it’s time to accept this influence and use it for some good.

Of course, it’s not all bad. Sport in general is a vehicle for well-being, and the return of training and fixtures after lockdown has been a godsend for so many, helping to re-knit social bonds so disrupted by isolation. Furthermore, it’s been heartening to see the positive influence of superstar players in recent years, from Mohammed Salah introducing ‘the Salah Effect’, a meaningful contribution towards the acceptance of Islam in Britain, to Marcus Rashford’s school meals campaign that forced the UK Government to twice U-turn on their intention to reduce free school meals for some of the UK’s most vulnerable children.

Internationally, I would like to draw particular attention to the Italian football league, Serie A, which has collaborated with the independent organisation ‘WeWorld’ to raise awareness of Violence Against Women and Girls. To mark the International Day for the Elimination of VAWG, all players and referees took to the field with a red mark on their faces, the symbol used for the movement. This collective act has given a stronger voice in opposition to misogynistic violence and has brought the issue to the forefront of Italian society.

We can do this too.

Violence against women and girls is something that is in the news every day. Domestic abuse cases have spiralled out of control since the start of the pandemic—we are seeing horrible crimes being committed and lives being lost. VAWG is everywhere and yet not always visible. Following the example set by Serie A, our football bodies and institutions can also use the sport and the players to educate, to raise awareness and to fight for justice. With the recent arrests of Premier League footballers Benjamin Mendy and Yves Bissouma on charges of sexual assault, it is time for British football to take charge making this violence unacceptable in all sectors of society. Let’s start with the red marks, let’s campaign, let’s pave the way for a safer country for our women and girls. I welcome your views, suggestions and ideas but let’s do this!