Beer giant AB InBev is pressuring the Qatari government to exempt the FIFA World Cup from local laws which do not allow public alcohol use.
Alcohol use is not part of Qatar’s local culture. The push to allow alcohol sales and consumption in FIFA World Cup venues by AB InBev and FIFA shows a glaring lack of respect for the host country and its people.

Understanding Qatar’s approach to alcohol

Qatar will be hosting the FIFA World Cup this year from November 21 to December 18.

In 2016 the Qatari government said they will not allow alcohol sales during the World Cup, in accordance with the country’s laws.

Alcohol is not part of our culture,” said Nassar al-Khater, the chief executive officer of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in 2019.

Nassar al-Khater, chief executive officer, 2022 FIFA World Cup

Qatar is a middle eastern country where alcohol sales and used are banned for cultural and religious reasons. Under Islamic law, the consumption of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages is banned. In Qatar, public use of alcohol products is not allowed as per the country’s laws. Being under the influence of alcohol in public is a crime. The only exceptions are certain hotels, restaurants, and clubs that cater to foreign visitors, especially Westerners.

The legal age allows over 21-year-olds to buy alcohol from licensed hotels, restaurants, and bars. Even when allowed in well-defined and concealed locations, alcohol use is not part of the local culture or tradition.

As the World Health Organization country profile shows, Qatar has a very low population level alcohol use, very low rates of alcohol use disorder, and ranks low on the scale of years of life lost due to alcohol.

© Global Alcohol Status Report 2018, World Health Organization, Country Profile Qatar

2022 FIFA World Cup: Alcohol Giant Puts Qatar Under Pressure to Allow Alcohol Sales 

AB InBev is however not respecting local rules, culture, and religious laws. The beer giant is following its proven playbook of pressuring FIFA and lobbying the Qatari government, as it did in Brazil around the 2014 World Cup.

FIFA – under the influence of AB InBev, the world’s largest beer producer – is doing the dirty work for the alcohol giant and is intensely lobbying the government of Qatar to ease the alcohol sales ban for the World Cup.

Considering the hundreds of thousands of supporters who will come from various countries, including some with high rates of alcohol use, FIFA is pressuring Qatari authorities to make exceptions for sales and consumption of alcohol at the World Cup venues, disregarding the comfort of local residents.  

FIFA and AB InBev are pushing Qatari authorities to allow public alcohol use and the 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.

But pushing Qatari officials to change local laws just to suit Big Alcohol shows a lack of respect for the local culture and values of the people in the host country. This push goes against FIFA’s and sponsors’ purported efforts 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.


Asia News: “2022 FIFA World Cup: Qatar under pressure to ease alcohol ban

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Source Website: PIME Asia News