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The Independent Culture
As the opening match in Euro 96 confirmed, British academic research, for all its excellence in other fields, has not made significant breakthroughs on the football one. American sports physiologists have determined that in their brand of football, defenders should be ectomorphs, but soccer researchers appear not even to have got that far. Unless you count a 1962 paper, "Skill and judgement of footballers in attempting to score goals" (British Journal of Psychology, vol 53, 71-88), which showed not only that good footballers are more confident than bad footballers, but demonstrated that the closer a player is to the enemy goal, the more likely he thinks he is to score. But all this is more than compensated by research on the football fan.

"Psychiatric emergencies, Scotland and the World Cup finals" was the title of a paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 1990 in which the researchers compared numbers of patients presenting for emergency psychiatric treatment in Edinburgh in 1978, 1982 and 1986 (when Scotland competed in the World Cup finals) and the intervening years, when they did not. "Reductions in emergency psychiatric presentations to the hospital occurred during and after the finals of the World Cup, an effect evident in women as well as men." More schizophrenics and neurotics needed treatment before the World Cup, and more alcoholics needed treatement while the event was on.

As for trouble on the pitch, "Personality adjustment of high and low achieving football players: A comparative study," (Indian Journal of Psychometry & Education vol 20, 1989) showed that high-achieving footballers score higher on psychoticism than low-achievers.

Back on the terraces, "Deliberate self-poisoning - Nottingham Forest Football Club and FA Cup defeat" (Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, vol 11, 1994) showed that the incidence of admissions for self-poisoning at a Nottingham hospital was significantly higher on two weekends when the team was knocked out of the FA Cup. On the other hand, "The impact of professional football games upon violent assaults on women" (Violence & Victims, vol 7, 1992) showed that in northern Virginia, the hospitals treat more women victims of gun shots, stabbings, assaults, falls, lacerations and being struck by objects when the Washington Redskins football team wins than when it loses.

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