THE claim that domestic violence spikes after Old Firm matches may be a myth, according to a Glasgow-led study.

Well-publicised findings suggesting men may be more likely to abuse their partners after Celtic play Rangers, or after a big England or Scotland match are misleading, researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University have claimed.

But they also allow football to be scapegoated as a trigger for domestic violence – offering offenders an excuse and masking the underlying causes.

The UK-wide study, which also involved Glasgow and Bristol universities, found it failed to take account of factors such as increased policing on match days, differences in how crimes are recorded between forces and the large number of men who watch and support the sport.

Instead, survivors, police, specialist support groups, football authorities, government organisations and policymakers, stressed the ongoing nature of abusive behaviour.

One policymaker told researchers: “There’s a degree of scapegoating with alcohol because you don’t abuse just because you’ve had a drink – you abuse because you’re an abusive man who’s had a drink.”

Dr Nancy Lombard, Reader in Sociology and Social Policy at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “Specialist domestic violence and abuse (DVA) service providers were concerned that focusing on football masks the underlying causes and potentially offers perpetrators excuses for their abusive behaviour.”

Brenna Jessie, spokeswoman for Scottish Women’s Aid, said the research was welcome: “The urge to pin domestic abuse on alcohol, football, the weather, faith – basically anything other than the abuser – has been a frustration of ours for a really long time.

“The person responsible for abusing their power and their (ex) partner is the perpetrator, and all eyes should be on them.”

“All of us here in Scotland have a part to play in ending domestic abuse and that includes but is not limited to football clubs and fans.”