February 7, 2012
Proving once again that it puts profits before “the beautiful game,” the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has demanded that Brazil lift its ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages at soccer matches during the 2014 World Cup. The governing body of soccer went so far as to order that the “right to sell beer” be enshrined in a special World Cup law being considered by Congress. A right to sell beer? How about a right to attend the premier event in sports without alcohol-induced violence? Anyone? In an effort to reduce alcohol-related sports violence and protect public health in general, alcohol sales are currently banned from football stadiums in Brazil. A World Health Organization study carried out in countries including Brazil, showed that about 46% of violent incidents seen in the emergency room were related to alcohol use. The study also demonstrated that injuries from violent incidents increase with alcohol use. In light of the overwhelming evidence, Brazil’s health minister urged Congress to maintain the ban. Yet FIFA, despite its claims of a mission to “build a better future,” will have nothing of it. Secretary-General Jerome Valcke responded: “Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we're going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that's something we won't negotiate.” Clearly when FIFA weighs the money they make from sponsors like Anheuser-Busch InBev's Budweiser brand - which is estimated to pay tens of millions of dollars for sponsorship and exclusive pouring rights - against the health and safety of the approximately 3 million people expected the attend the games, they come up with a clear winner. FIFA claims that “We use the power of football as a tool for social and human development, by strengthening the work of dozens of initiatives around the globe to support local communities in the areas of peacebuilding, health, social integration, education and more.” And yet, it’s not very difficult to see that demanding alcohol sales at World Cup games will very likely increase violent incidents and injuries, negative health impacts, and social disintegration. Alcohol Justice’s message to FIFA: Stop pandering to Big Alcohol. Back off and let a sovereign country manage its own public health and safety.