Qatar will be hosting the FIFA World Cup this year from November 21 to December 18. In 2016 the Qatari government said they will impose a total ban on alcohol sales during the World Cup in accordance with the country’s law. But beer giant AB InBev, one of the main sponsors of the FIFA World Cup, is not too happy with an alcohol ban.
FIFA – under the influence of AB InBev, the world’s largest beer producer – is doing the dirty work for Big Alcohol and is intensely lobbying the government of Qatar to ease the alcohol sales ban for the World Cup.
In Qatar, public use of alcohol products is not allowed as per the country’s laws. The only exceptions are certain hotels, restaurants, and clubs that cater to foreign visitors, especially Westerners.
FIFA and AB InBev are pushing Qatari authorities to allow public alcohol use and sale of alcohol in the World Cup venues. A major reason is that the Budweiser brand by AB InBev is the official beer sponsor of the World Cup, dating back more than 30 years.
During the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup Qatar had a separate zone for those using alcohol. A similar method might be used in the upcoming World Cup. The officials under pressure from FIFA and AB InBev have opened negotiations on changing the alcohol rules for the World Cup.
Alcohol use is not part of Qatar’s local culture. Pushing Qatari officials to change the laws just to suit the Big Alcohol shows a lack of respect for the local culture and values of the people in the host country. This push goes against what FIFA and sponsors purported effort to balance “everyone’s interests” with maintaining a “respectful” atmosphere towards the host country’s values.
In reality, it appears that FIFA is only looking to benefit Big Alcohol’s interests while AB InBev is trying to maximize profits without any regard or concern for the people of the host country.
AB InBev: A repeat offender
Already in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, FIFA was doing Big Alcohol’s dirty work and pushed for alcohol to be sold at all venues hosting matches. Fifa even spoke of “a right to sell beer.” But alcohol was banned from Brazilian stadiums as part of measures to reduce violence in football and to improve public health in general. At the time, the country’s health minister urged the parliament to maintain the ban in the new “World Cup law”. But FIFA and Budweiser got their way.
It is also not the first time the beer giant has infringed on the values of a community to market their products. In 2020, an interfaith coalition called out AB InBev over the use of the name “Brahma” – a revered Hindu god – for a beer brand. Brahma is the god of creation in one of the oldest religions in the world, Hinduism. The figure is highly revered among Hindus around the world. In a statement, the interfaith coalition criticized the marketing saying it objectified women. They called out AB InBev for religious appropriation, sacrilege, and ridiculing entire communities.
In 2016, AB InBev was sued by a First Nation tribe in North Carolina, United States for hijacking their logo and slogan to market beer. The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit against AB InBev for illegally using the tribe’s trademarked logo and its “Heritage, Pride & Strength” slogan in convenience store advertisements for Budweiser and Bud Light.
AB InBev has a long list of unethical business practices apart from the above-mentioned infringing on cultural values, religious appropriation, and hijacking logos and slogans. Some of these include,
Alcohol has no place in sports
The alcohol industry and other health harmful industries have a long history of using major sporting events to push their products on everyone, everywhere, including children.
Alcohol is a health harmful substance. It should have no place in sports, which is a healthy activity. But by promoting alcohol through sports, the alcohol industry propagates a harmful alcohol norm. It associates the healthy image and energy of sports with alcohol which is an addictive, cancer-causing substance.
Scientific research has found that exposing people to an alcohol brand, and more strongly to a mainstream alcohol brand, such as done in alcohol marketing in sports, leads to more positive attitudes towards alcohol more generally. Researchers have called for a ban on alcohol marketing in sports such as for tobacco to reduce the harmful impact it causes to children and youth.
During the Euro 2020 pro-football players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba removed product placements of Coca-Cola and Heineken in press conferences. This showed the world and unhealthy commodity industries that they do not want their sport or their image to be used to promoted harmful products to people.
Many professional footballers and other professional sports players live alcohol-free for a variety of reasons. The alcohol industry pushing its products on players, fans, children, and into all spaces they can find is a threat to everyone’s health and well-being.