Newswise – In the past few years, many of us have been shocked by theviolent acts done by fans of professional sports. Forinstance, “football louts” in the U.K. routinely terrorizetowns where their favorite teams are playing, to the extentthat British teams have been banned from internationalsoccer matches. In the U.S., baseball stadiums have tried tocontrol rowdy behavior by setting aside special sectionswhere beer is not sold, or by limiting the number of beersthat can be purchased by a single individual. You wouldthink that fans would get violent when their team is losing,but surprisingly, that’s not the case. It’s winning?notlosing?that triggers sports-related violence.

Researchers base this idea on a study of the number ofpeople requiring emergency medical treatment duringinternational rugby and soccer matches in the city ofCardiff in Wales (population 300,000). Rugby (a game that isequivalent to what we call football in the U.S.) and soccer(called “football” in the U.K.) are the most popularspectator sports in Wales, and games at the stadium oftenattract as many as 70,000 fans.

The research team tracked the number of assault casesarriving at the Cardiff ER, which is about a mile from thestadium, between May 1995 and April 2002. During thisperiod, there were 74 rugby games and 32 soccer games there,and there were a total of 27,000 assault cases that requiredemergency medical treatment. An average of 30 assault casesrequired medical attention on the day of the game and theday after. On days when there was no rugby or soccer game,the average number of assault cases fell to 21.

When Wales won its games, the average number of assaultinjuries was 33; when Wales lost, this dropped to 25.Whether the matches were played at home or away had littleimpact on assault rates, meaning that watching games on TVwith friends or in a bar with other customers, instead ofattending games in person, does not curtail fans’ violentbehavior.

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