Whichever country wins the 2014 FIFA World Cup on the 13th July, the real winner will be the alcohol industry, concludes a special report by Jonathan Gornall, published in The BMJ.
As part of an ongoing examination of the influence of the alcohol industry on public health, the article looks at the lengths to which the industry has gone to ensure that the World Cup “will be as much a festival of alcohol as it is of football.”
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.
Fifa has secured the usual tax breaks for its “family” but has gone even further on behalf of Budweiser, its alcohol partner, by bullying the Brazilian government into abandoning its longstanding ban on alcohol in sports stadiums, introduced in an attempt to end often fatal violence between rival fans at games.
Brazilian health professionals say the alcohol industry is “running the show” and fear that the changes may become permanent.
During a World Cup, the host country must waive tax on any profits made by FIFA’s commercial partners, including Budweiser, the tournament’s official beer sponsor – leaving them free to walk away with every Real they pocket and depriving Brazil of an estimated £312 million in revenue.
“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.”
Further evidence of alcohol’s influence came last month, when Budweiser and Coca-Cola, another Fifa partner, persuaded the Brazilian government to postpone plans to increase taxes on beer and other beverages until after the tournament.
A recent study found a 37.5% increase in A&E visits due to assaults “often associated with alcohol use” on the days England played during the 2010 tournament.
This echoes similar findings from the 2006 World Cup and a Welsh study on admissions after international rugby and football matches.
It remains to be seen whether Russian resolve will waver over the World Cup (this year’s Sochi Winter Olympics were alcohol-free), says the report, but such is the power of Fifa that Qatar, a strictly Muslim country with tough drinks laws, has already agreed to sell alcohol in fan zones at games in 2020.
Source: The BMJ