The Connection Between Professional Sporting Events, Holidays and Domestic Violence in Calgary, Alberta


Growing evidence finds a correlation between professional sporting events, holidays and rates of domestic violence (DV). Results are often mixed and vary based on factors such as geographic location, access to alcohol, and how certain events are celebrated. This study examines changes in DV rates during sporting events and holidays in Calgary, Alta., a large Canadian city, controlling for situational factors that can influence the fluctuations, such as weather. The authors measured over a four-year period (2011 to 2014) daily counts of phone calls both to the Calgary Police Service and a service known as “Connect,” a specialized Calgary phone line for people experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence. Findings show that certain daily, seasonal and economic patterns resulted in a significantly higher number of DV calls. Controlling for these patterns, New Year’s Day was associated with more than twice the average number of DV calls. The Calgary Stampede (a large-scale summer event) also showed a positive correlation. Weather conditions were not associated with the increase in DV rates, except for the catastrophic flood that occurred in Calgary in 2013. The only football games associated with an increase in DV calls were games when the hometown Stampeders faced their rivals, the Edmonton Eskimos, and championship Grey Cup games involving the Stampeders. Due to the complexity of situational factors associated with variation in DV, the authors call on multiple stakeholders to advance primary prevention efforts to mitigate these effects where possible. Recommendations include increasing publically funded childcare and affordable family outings and activities; increasing training in social and emotional learning and competencies for parents; and conducting further research on the role of alcohol in domestic violence.