Brazil’s president has signed into law a measure that allows the sale of alcoholic beverages inside stadiums during the 2014 soccer World Cup. Believe it or not, this had threatened to become a major stumbling block.
Brazil had initially balked at allowing beer sales in stadiums. Alcohol has been banned at Brazilian games since 2003. The ban was introduced as part of measures to tackle violence among rival fans and hooliganism. Seems like a reasonable step to me.
But soccer’s global governing body FIFA demanded that Brazil change its laws to allow beer sales.
“Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup,” said FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke on a visit to Brazil earlier this year. “Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant, but that’s something we won’t negotiate,” Valcke added for good measure.
Oh, did I mention that Budweiser is a major FIFA World Cup sponsor?
And in fact, Brazilian federal authorities have now consented. But apparently, they’ve done so with a measure that does not give FIFA a blank check on the matter.
State laws around Brazil still prohibit beer sales in local stadiums. So FIFA may still need to negotiate with individual states where World Cup stadiums are located.
But let’s assume that come 2014, when Brazil finally hosts actual World Cup matches, beer will indeed flow in the country’s stadiums. FIFA says it has the right to do so, and few governments out there have the backbone required to stand up to soccer’s powers that be.
Now, I have been known to enjoy a beer now and then at sporting events here in the US. I admit it’s a nice option to have for responsible fans.
But beer is not essential for the enjoyment of the game. In fact I would say it distracts from it. So I view alcohol at games as a luxury, not a right.
If authorities told me that there’s a real risk that alcohol consumption could lead to violence at a game, I would be the first to hand in my plastic cup.
In Brazil, the authorities know that there’s a risk of violence associated with alcohol. There’s a history of it in the country.
Yet FIFA prefers to ignore that, perhaps to keep its sponsors happy. I hope they, and soccer fans, don’t end up regretting it.