Relationship breakdown during World Cup
A leading family lawyer is warning West Yorkshire footie fans the World Cup could cause long-term injuries to their relationships.
Alison Straw, head of national law firm Irwin Mitchell's family team based in Queen Street, Leeds, says spending the duration of the tournament watching the world's finest players, rather than interacting with our other halves, can come with penalties of its own.
She said: "We noticed an increase in the number of divorce and separation cases we were handling in West Yorkshire immediately following the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
"This summer, patriotic fans like me are hoping Robbo, Becks, Stevie G and the rest - including, fingers crossed, Wayne Rooney - can emulate England's 1966 team by winning the greatest prize in the sport.
"But some of us also know the tournament will signal full-time for many already-shaky relationships, where one partner increases the strain by watching too may passes on the box, rather than making them at their partner."
Mrs Straw said in the light of her team's experience, the start of the World Cup on June 9 in Munich - and especially England's opening game against Paraguay in Frankfurt the following day - would not only kick-off on-pitch battles in Germany but lead to clashes back home too.
She explained: "During the tournament, many fans will agree with the tongue-in-cheek saying attributed to legendary manager Bill Shankly that football is not a matter of life and death, it's more important than that. And partners who aren't interested in the sport might begin to feel relegated to the subs bench.
"Emotions among England fans will run very high, whether the team is winning or losing. Extended drinking sessions to celebrate the wins or drowning sorrows and sulking, should things not go according to plan on the pitch, can create an atmosphere where friction can accumulate and, before you know it, you're having a huge row.
"This is especially dangerous because factors such as non-communication and lack of attention are the most commonly mentioned reasons for divorce today. Motives for separation in the past were much more substantive, whereas now they're to a greater extent about personal growth and feelings."
Research during the 1998 World Cup in France revealed a third of UK relationships were in danger during the tournament. It showed over half of men regularly rowed with their partner about the amount of time they spent watching and playing sport, and found a third expected the World Cup to play havoc with their relationships.
More than 60 per cent of men admitted they found sport more exciting than their partners.*
The latest government statistics reveal that while marriage is becoming popular again, with the number of weddings rising for the third successive year, divorces in England and Wales are also on the increase, soaring to 153,500 in 2004, the highest total since 1996.
With two first marriages in five now hearing their final whistle, up to 160,000 couples are expected to split this year.
Mrs Straw said: "As the finals loom, I would encourage football fanatics to think about the many existing pressures we exert on our relationships and compromise a little, perhaps by making a special effort to enjoy some quality time with their partners.
"It might even be possible to watch some of the matches together, as it's important for partners to have shared interests.
"However, if your partner is simply not open to becoming a fan or trying to share your interest during the World Cup, do tread carefully - the tournament will almost inevitably mean the red card for many relationships."
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