Written by Ollie Cox
TW: The following article discusses incidents of domestic abuse.
Multidisciplinary creative Alice Rea is tackling rising domestic violence during the World Cup with her ‘Don’t Take It Home’ campaign.
Step foot onto any UK street when the England football team is playing, and you’ll be greeted by a familiar sight. Flags draped from windows, bustling pubs and fans revelling in the trials and tribulations of their national team. Although this is a time of joy for some, unfortunately, it can bring great fear for sufferers of domestic abuse. According to data published by the National Centre for Domestic Violence, incidents increase “by 26% if England plays, 38% if England loses and 11% the next day, win or lose”. Consequently, Rea has used two pillars of football fandom as her canvas to combat rising domestic violence in major football tournaments. Customised England flags reading “Beaten” and embroidered “Don’t Take It Home” scarves inform fans of the statistics in what the designer describes as “an ambient, guerrilla-style campaign that aims to prevent football-related domestic violence during the 2022 FIFA World Cup”. Items from the campaign, shot in Wembley in May 2022, can now be purchased, with profits being donated to Solace Women’s Aid. As well as being for sale, Reas’s scarf is also featured in ‘The Art of the Football Scarf’ exhibition at Oof Gallery until 26 February 2023.
Working in London during the 2020 European Championship exposed Rea to a darker side of the ‘beautiful game’. “The more conversations I had about it, the more I realised that it was a topic that needed to be spoken about, and particularly with football fans who might not know this problem exists. It’s my belief that designers should have a sense of responsibility to put things that matter out into the world, and so that was the starting point of the campaign.”
Rea’s opinion on the game is conflicted, seen in the way she has chosen to tackle the issue. Even though Rea understands that “one side” of the sport is “easy to love”, she also knows “there is an ugly side to it” which she doesn’t think should be ignored. She notes that although “football doesn’t cause domestic violence, it can increase domestic abuse”. To reach football fans, she “had to speak to them with a visual language they know and love – so scarves, flags and stickers became a way to get the Don’t Take It Home message across”.
Jo Tilley-Riley, Director of Fundraising and Communications at Hestia Crisis Support, an organisation bringing together charities, businesses and public sector organisations to campaign for the end of domestic abuse and sexual violence, echoed this sentiment. “When a big football tournament is happening, incidents of domestic abuse can increase in frequency and severity. This is often due to increased alcohol consumption, anti-social behaviour, and intense emotion associated with the sport.” With football and pints going hand-in-hand for many fans, it is no surprise that alcohol is one of the main triggers of this domestic violence. This issue was “absolutely” important for Rea to address in ‘Don’t Take It Home’, where pubs were targeted by her informative designs.
Rea’s research into football’s power revealed that for most fans, unity, family, and pride were the emotions harnessed from the experience of supporting a team. “I tried to transfer these ideas into the campaign – Don’t Take It home isn’t accusatory or judgemental,” she adds, “It’s inviting fans to rally against the issue as a team”. With the scarves screen printed for the campaign emblazoned with ‘Football V Domestic Violence’, the call to action in her work is clear. Refuge, one of the largest domestic abuse organisations in the UK, states “football is not the problem, but it has the potential to be part of the solution by making sure fans who experience domestic abuse know how to access support”.
Unfortunately, it’s not just partners of abusers impacted by this kind of violence when the national side is playing. According to the NSPCC, “there was a 33 per cent increase in contacts to its helpline about children experiencing violence and abuse at home during the previous World Cup tournament in 2018”.
Rea’s use of the football scarf as a canvas led to her work being displayed in the ‘Art of the Football Scarf’ in Tottenham’s Oof Gallery. The exhibition features work from several artists using neckwear to make playful and serious societal critiques. Speaking on her choice to use the fan-favourite accessory as a call to action, Rea stated, “football is the biggest sport in the world – maybe the football scarf is the most recognisable and widespread canvas for artists to work with”.
As a socially and environmentally conscious creative, Rea’s goal is to make the world an “ever so slightly” better place. With the FIFA World Cup 2022 underway, the ‘Don’t Take It Home’ campaign has never been more important in the fight to end football-related domestic violence.
Rea’s’ Don’t Take It Home’ scarf will be exhibited in the Art of the Football Scarf exhibition until 26 February 2023. She hopes the scarves will “be worn or hung up in solidarity with survivors of football-related domestic violence”. Remnants of the initial campaign can be seen in Wembley where her stickers remain on road signs and in pubs near the stadium.