South Wales Echo, 12th March 2009
Welsh rugby may have found a perfect marriage with national coach Warren Gatland – but for an increasing number of fans, divorce is very much in the air.

That’s according to Wales’s largest firm of family lawyers, Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice of Cardiff, which is warning that the period around the Six Nations rugby internationals is now firmly established as one of the busiest divorce times of the year.

“We had our largest number of new clients ever last week,( an increase of 20% on our previous figure ) which of course coincided with Wales’s away match in Paris,” explains Melanie Hamer, Partner at the Windsor Place practice.

“Weekends such as those featuring rugby matches often bring tensions to a head and are unfortunately sometimes affected by excess alcohol consumption, which exacerbate any relationship problem that may already exist,” she added.

It ties in with previous research which showed that Welsh marriages suffer from too much sport with 15% of those interviewed citing hobbies such as sport as a problem, said Melanie , who has also counted a number of leading Welsh rugby stars among her clients in recent years

Figures from South Wales Police also show that incidents of domestic abuse increase during major sporting events because people drink more with 39% of cases of domestic violence involving alcohol.

The Wales Tackles Domestic Abuse campaign launched at the beginning of the Six Nations Campaign aims to encourage those suffering from abuse to break their silence and seek the support and protection they need.

Melanie, a family lawyer of 20 years said another contributing factor was that the Six Nations coincided with the period after Christmas, when families have stuck together for the festive period for the sake of their children.

“Issues will often rumble on for a few weeks after the new year period and come to a head when Welsh rugby enjoys its busiest period,” said Melanie.

“The last thing we want to do is put a dampener on any success Wales are enjoying on the field, but understanding divorce trends is important to society as a whole as well as professionals involved in supporting families at a difficult time.

“However, our advice is not to rush into divorce but to seek help from Relate or Family Mediation.”