WATCH: John Oliver rips FIFA over their push to have beer sold at Brazil’s World Cup stadiums
Is it the World Cup of soccer – or suds?
A new report published Wednesday in a British medical magazine suggests the tournament, which begins tomorrow, is to a large degree about the beer being served in the stands as it is about the sport played on the pitch.
“Whichever country hoists aloft the World Cup trophy, the real winner will be the alcohol industry,” Jonathan Gornall, the author of the report, which ran in the BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, said.
The report blasts FIFA for forcing the Brazilian government to lift a decade-old ban on beer sales within stadiums – a ban designed to end brutal and sometimes deadly violence between rival fan bases.
In May 2012, Brazil’s federal senate passed a series of rules required by FIFA for the country to host the global spectacle. Among them, the allowance of beer sales in stadiums and possible tax breaks for tournament sponsors.
The passage of the conditions came after Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, extended its sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup through 2022.
Relations between FIFA and Brazil became strained when government officials delayed the bill’s passage, according to reports at the time.
READ MORE: Complete World Cup coverage
A fear among some now is that the temporary lifting of the ban could be extended.
“In Brazil, public health experts fear one legacy of the World Cup will be a return to the dark days of alcohol fuelled violence in stadiums,” Gornall said in the BMJ report.
Ronaldo Laranjeira, a professor of psychiatry at the Federal University of São Paulo in Brazil, said in the piece he was “shocked” FIFA “can come to a country and makes it change its laws.”
He and other Brazilian health lobbyists “now fear that the temporary suspension of the law will become permanent,” Laranjeira said.
Brazil’s sports minister supports the continued sale of beer in stadiums after the end of the World Cup, the report said.
Brazilians love beer, beer-sponsored survey says
Still, Brazilians appear intent on consuming generous amounts of ale and lager when the tournament kicks off tomorrow, whether it is sold in stadiums or not.
A recent survey commissioned by local brewing giant Ambev – a Brazilian brewer owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev — asked Brazilians to list their “national passions.” While 77 per cent named football, 35 per cent also cited beer.
A study released in May by Nielsen, commissioned by supermarket owners in Sao Paulo, one of the tournament’s 12 host cities, forecast a 37 per cent increase in beer consumption during the World Cup and total sales of more than $800 million during the four weeks.
During the 2010 World Cup, beer sales in Brazil increased 15 per cent.
Tax breaks for Budweiser?
The report also says conditions laid out by FIFA also include a long-standing practice of “tax breaks for sponsors,” or having the host country waive taxes on sales made by commercial partners during a World Cup.
The “tax break” could amount to an additional revenue boost of $569-million for sponsors, according to the antipoverty campaign group InspirAction, the Spanish partner of Christian Aid.
“The price of these tax breaks for corporate giants will be paid by people living in poverty in Brazil,” said Isabel Ortigosa of InspirAction in a statement last month.
“The millions that FIFA demands for its sponsors should be used for the benefit of Brazil’s many poor communities, not to enrich the already powerful.”
FIFA has denied the allegations.
Therer are 3.1 million tickets allotted for the 64 matches throughout the month long contest, with about 60 per cent of sold tickets held by Brazilians. The second biggest contingent of buyers were Americans, who purchased just under 200,000 tickets.
It is believed that AB InBev, which owns Budweiser, pays anything between US$10- to $25-million a year to be part of the World Cup group of sponsors, which include McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson.