FIFA is doing the dirty work for Big Alcohol as usual in the 2022 Qatar World Cup by pushing through alcohol sales. Initially Qatar was not going to allow any alcohol sales during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to Qatar’s laws which prohibit public alcohol use. However, FIFA has lobbied for the interest of AB InBev whose brand Budweiser has been a long-term sponsor of FIFA.
This is another example of FIFA putting profits over people. The deal with AB InBev, the world’s biggest beer producer, is more important than the agreement with the World Health Organization. FIFA’s partnership with the WHO has not led to a real commitment to the health of people first and improve alcohol prevention.
Albeit claiming to want to promote healthy lifestyles, FIFA is going to be doing exactly the opposite by pushing the Qatar government to introduce 17-hour alcohol consumption at the 2022 World Cup to benefit the beer industry.
The AB InBev-friendly plan is to allow the “Arcadia Spectacular” – which features at the Glastonbury Festival – to run a Qatar 2022 version. With a 15,000 capacity the festival will be selling alcohol from 10:00 AM to 5:00 AM the next day. With this initiative, FIFA has decided to not only allow alcohol use in a country where public places are alcohol free; moreover, FIFA is heavily promoting alcohol use among World Cup spectators for 17 hours daily while they are watching all four daily games in the group stage.
The tournament starts on November 20, 2022. A pint of beer will cost about £8 and a ticket to the festival will be about £50 per day.
For those who cannot access the “Arcadia Spectacular” festival, FIFA has pushed Qatari officials to allow alcohol sales from 6:30 PM till 1:00AM in the Fan Festival in the city centre Al Bidda Park which would be free to enter for fans and to also allow alcohol sales before and after games, once fans have passed through match day stadium security gates. These bars will only be shut during games and fans are not allowed to use alcohol in the stadium bowl.
Sober zones for intoxicated fans
Usually in Qatar, alcohol consumption is limited to hotel bars. The 17-hour long alcohol availability and the alcohol intoxicated behavior which is likely to follow will be a new public phenomenon and will threaten the health and safety of people.
Qatar’s World Cup chief Nasser Al Khater has said that sober zones will be set up for intoxicated fans to “sober up”. He assures the issue of intoxicated fans will be addressed appropriately.
However, the entire ordeal could have been prevented if FIFA had taken its partnership with WHO seriously and had not pushed Qatari officials to allow alcohol sales during the World Cup.
FIFA, WHO, Qatar partnership
In 2019, FIFA entered into a three-way, three-year partnership with the WHO and Qatar titled “Healthy FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – Creating Legacy for Sport and Health.”
As recently as February, 2022 WHO stated that they and Qatar, working closely with FIFA, will undertake joint activities to place the promotion of healthy lives, health security and physical and mental well-being at the heart of the World Cup.
The partnership was supposed to work on the following three pillars:
- Pilar 1: Communications to raise awareness and visibility of the programme.
- Pillar 2: Health promotion focusing on physical activity and nutrition as well as its linkages with mental health and other topics, such as tobacco prevention.
- Pillar 3: Health security to ensure the health safety of mass gatherings and the World Cup events by preventing health risks and hazards.
When the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the partnership was signed, the FIFA President Gianni Infantino stated that FIFA aims to make the World Cup healthier and safer.
Our most iconic competition, the FIFA World Cup, will be held in just over a year’s time, in Qatar. Our ability to enjoy this banquet of games, however, depends on our health,” said Gianni Infantino, FIFA President, as per FIFA website.
This tripartite partnership is a very important step, for FIFA, the World Health Organization and the State of Qatar, who have committed to making this not only the biggest, but also the safest World Cup ever. And, with the guidance of WHO, we look forward to shaping more initiatives, and developing new ways to ensure everyone enjoys every moment of the FIFA World Cup – and does so in an environment which promotes the integration of health, security, and well-being.
On behalf of FIFA, I am delighted to reinforce our support in helping to achieve shared objectives and look forward to this new partnership to come to fruition,” Mr. Infantino concluded.Gianni Infantino, President, FIFA
Community calls for WHO to terminate FIFA partnership
It appears Mr. Infantino, FIFA, and the WHO have failed to put action to these words revealing them as just another PR stunt. But what is worse: FIFA is undermining its own goals with the partnership with WHO.
The beautiful game should be a space for all people to enjoy, feel safe, stay healthy, and be inspired. The World Cup faces already serious Human Rights concerns,” says Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International.
Alcohol is linked with almost all mental health disorders, with violence, and with the spread of the coronavirus.
People around the world were already questioning the FIFA-WHO partnership for the apparent absence of alcohol prevention.
And now FIFA is violating even this weak partnership with WHO, undermining two of its three pillars. By doing the dirty work for Big Alcohol instead of putting the health and well-being of people first, FIFA reveals that health promotion is just a PR stunt.
We call on WHO to terminate the partnership with FIFA.”Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International
Already when the MoU was signed Movendi International President, Kristina Sperkova raised doubts about apparent conflicts of interest between health promotion on the one hand and the Budweiser sponsorship deal.
Three years later, the answer is clear: FIFA abuses WHO to acquire a health halo while it is chosing to promote alcohol use and the private profits interests of the world biggest beer company. AB InBev is in a position to exploit football to reach millions of children and youth around the world. The WHO has unfortunately not been able to change this and Qatar has been forced to sell alcohol despite initial plans and against the country’s laws and culture.
Alcohol marketing in sports is harmful
Movendi International has previously reported on FIFA’s hypocrisy in claiming to promote healthy lifestyles while continuing the Budweiser sponsorship which exposes thousands of fans including young people are children to alcohol advertisements.
For example, a study found that the 2018 FIFA World Cup completely circumvented UK advertising legislation and broadcasting regulations intended to prevent exposure to alcohol and HFSS imagery and advertising in UK television.
The study results showed that in the UK alone, the 2018 FIFA World Cup delivered 3.3 billion alcohol impressions, including 385 million to children.
The FIFA World Cup has also been associated with increased domestic violence, according to one study in the UK. The study which analyzed domestic violence reports in the UK during three FIFA tournaments found that reported domestic abuse incidents increased in frequency with each new tournament. Furthermore, domestic abuse rose by 26% when the English national team won or drew, and a 38% increase when the national team lost.
Scientific studies have found that repeated exposure to alcohol marketing such as through sports not only encourages people to use alcohol but establishes alcohol norms and can create positive attitudes to alcohol implicitly and/or unconsciously and automatically without even the viewer being aware of the change.
A major Big Alcohol target group is children and young people. Big Alcohol gets unrestricted access to these groups through sports sponsorships and sports marketing. FIFA is essentially opening the doors for Big Alcohol to flood children and young people with alcohol marketing.
- early onset of alcohol use,
- higher amounts of alcohol consumption,
- more high-risk ways of consuming alcohol,
- shaping positive attitudes, expectancies, and judgements towards alcohol, and
- determining brand allegiance and loyalty for an entire life.
Underaged alcohol use is also profitable to Big Alcohol both in the short and long-term.
- In the short-term the alcohol industry makes a substantial amount of their profits from underage alcohol use.
- According to one study, in the U.S. market alone the total sales revenue from minors consuming alcohol was $17.5 billion (7.4%) out of $237.1 billion in 2016.
- In the long-term underage alcohol use often leads to heavy alcohol use later in life creating life-long customers who are dependent on alcohol products.
- One study found kids who began consuming alcohol before the age of 15 were 5.6 times more likely to report having alcohol use disorder in the past year as adults.
- The alcohol industry gains most profits from heavy users. For example, in Australia over a third of all alcohol products are used by 5% of the heaviest alcohol users.
All the evidence points to the fact that FIFA is not concerned about promoting healthy lifestyles, at least not when alcohol is concerned. Meanwhile the WHO partnership has not been terminated despite FIFA putting people, especially children and youth, in alcohol harm’s way. FIFA doing the dirty work for the world’s biggest beer producer continues to expose people and communities to more alcohol marketing endangering health and safety of all.
*This article was updated on October 17, 2022 as per new information from The Athletic