Medical, NGO groups oppose football-alcohol links

Medical organizations and activist non-government organisations have called on FIFA, football's governing body, to get rid of alcohol promotion at World Cup events and on match broadcasts. More than 260 diverse health, youth, sports, and religious groups from 43 nations endorsed a global resolution urging organisers to "stop undermining the positive values of sport by putting beer ads in front of so many young football fans worldwide". Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewer and producer of Budweiser, is an official partners of the 2006 FIFA World Cup and has prominent visibility at all venues. It sponsors the Man of the Match award for each game, sells its beer at matches, and advertises extensively on broadcasts of World Cup matches.

“It’s time to break the tie between alcohol marketing and high-profile sporting events,” said George A Hacker, Director of Alcohol Policies at the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest and a member of the board of directors of the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance. CSPI organized the resolution effort.

“FIFA is now on notice that there is widespread opposition to Budweiser’s hijacking the values of sports to promote drinking to hundreds of millions of fans, including young children, around the world ... FIFA touts its responsibility to promote health and points to its elimination in 1986 of tobacco advertising in all its tournaments. If FIFA had a genuine concern about promoting health, particularly among the hundreds of millions of its youngest fans, it would give the boot, as soon as possible, to alcohol sponsorship, signage and advertising,” he said.

The resolution calls on FIFA to examine the role of marketing alcoholic beverages in the World Cup for “consistency with the values of sport, health, and fair play represented by international sports competition.”

“Advertising alcoholic beverages at the World Cup, perhaps the premier global family event, is totally unacceptable,” said J. Edward Hill, MD, American Medical Association Immediate Past President. “We know exposure to television advertising for alcoholic beverages increases the likelihood that children will drink and consume alcohol more heavily. Eliminating all alcohol advertising and marketing at all future World Cup tournaments would demonstrate a commitment to promoting the health of youth and sports fans worldwide.”

“In a developing country health is the foundation upon which the wealth of the nation is built and strengthened, Dr S Arul Rhaj, Vice President of the Commonwealth Medical Association, said. "Alcohol is harmful to you, your family, and society. It damages your health, wealth, mind, and peace.”

In addition to FIFA, the resolution will be sent to the World Health Organization, and to health and sports ministers around the world. The WHO is currently examining world-wide alcohol issues in preparation for a report to the Sixtieth World Health Assembly in May of 2007.