The author explores how the alcohol industry seeks to determine alcohol policies through the case study of the ban on alcohol selling and consumption inside Brazil’s soccer stadiums.
Such a ban was first put into place in Brazil in 1995 in São Paulo state. Other states in the country followed São Paulo’s lead with their own regulations and finally, in 2003, the ban became a federal law (Estatuto do Torcedor: Spectators’ Law).
In April 2008, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) signed a document supporting the alcohol ban. Only 14 months after this comment was made public, however, the World Soccer Cup Local Organizer Committee (COL) informed the states that will host the 2014 World Soccer Cup that the alcohol sales and consumption ban laws would have to change to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold.
In fact, in June 2012, 1 day after our federal lawmakers changed the Spectator’s Law on the matter, also allowing the states to regulate alcohol in the stadiums during the World Cup, the new president of the CBF indicated that the state legislators should have ‘conscience of their responsibility of what is better for Brazil’. This statement was interpreted as an indication to state legislators that they should change the state laws and lift the ban on alcohol selling and consumption. Currently, most of the states have indeed lifted the ban, and several voices in the government are advancing the idea of permanently allowing alcohol in stadiums.
This seems to have been the result of pressure by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). For years, FIFA has had in place a lucrative contract with AB Inbev’s brand, Budweiser, that has just been extended to the Quatar World Cup in 2022. FIFA’s Secretary General was very clear in his position towards the matter: ‘Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them. (…), that’s something we won’t negotiate. The fact that we have the right to sell beer has to be a part of the law’.
This turn of events contrasts with the statements produced by the Director General of the Global Alcohol Producers Group affirming that they ‘do not dispute that final decisions about policy are matters for governments’. In the case just described, the alcohol industry, represented by the world’s largest brewer, had a very public opportunity to not interfere in a country’s alcohol policy and, visibly, did exactly the opposite.
Therefore, let us be very clear: the alcohol industry seeks to determine alcohol policy, as it has no problem in pressuring for changes in policies already in place when such policies interfere with their corporate aims.