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Aggression, rather than celebration, drives alcohol consumption in rugby spectators

Research news published today in Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health drew two main findings from a survey of rugby supporters entering and leaving the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff: spectators in the winning & drawing groups rated themselves as more aggressive than those whose team just lost; and more aggressive spectators intended to drink more alcohol after the match.

“It appears that aggression, not celebration, determined how much spectators planned to drink after the match," says lead author Simon Moore, of the Violence Research Group, Cardiff University.

These conclusions were reached by a team of researchers who questioned 197 male rugby supporters as they passed through the main entrance of the Millennium Stadium complex in Cardiff. Of these 111 were questioned as they entered and 86 on their way out. The work was carried out by researchers in the Violence Research Group at Cardiff University.

"This exploratory study seems to suggest that trying to reduce aggression by targeting alcohol misuse may not be the best strategy, because aggressive individuals have already planned to consume more alcohol before they start drinking. These results are also consistent with events around the world which have seen the fans of winning teams run riot after the match," says Moore.

Previous research that the authors cite in the paper shows that people who disregard the future and are motivated by immediate rewards are both more aggressive and consume more alcohol than the average person. “A possible explanation for our findings could be that if a supporter’s team wins or draws, he can get so caught up in the match that he loses sight of the future, and this loss of perspective leads to increased aggression,” says Moore.

The authors say that if this theory is proved correct, it could have important implications for crowd control. Threats of future punishment or warning people that violent behaviour can damage their health will have little restraining influence, because the person has lost sight of the future. “In this situation rapid deployment of police and on the spot fines could be more effective,” says Moore.

Jennifer Beal | alfa
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