Football fever dream?

The 2022 World Cup has arguably got off to a great start for England, with its 6-2 win over Iran on Monday (21 November). However, this year’s tournament comes with many controversies, and Qatar’s strict laws and abuses of human rights are now under scrutiny in the global spotlight.

Another bizarre turn has been Fifa’s backtracking on its decision to allow the sale of AB InBev’s Budweiser beer cans in the World Cup stadiums. Fifa announced the decision to ban alcohol on Friday 18 November, two days before the tournament started. Budweiser reportedly made a tweet in response and promptly deleted it, instead returning the day after with a photo of stacks of its beer in a warehouse and the caption ‘New Day, New Tweet. Winning Country gets the Buds. Who will get them?’ 

Rather tongue-in-cheek, but surely with Budweiser being the official World Cup sponsor, this will warrant another conversation with Fifa on how to compensate the huge loss at such late notice? Although, Budweiser will still continue to sell both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers at Fifa Fan Festival areas and other licensed venues, and the company’s non-alcoholic brand, Bud Zero, is still available in cans in the Qatar stadiums.

One wonders if Budweiser could do more to turn this unexpected hurdle and headline on its head and shift the focus. The company was already promising to promote responsible behaviour in Qatar through its Smart Drinking campaign, so why not turn consumer attention towards using responsible packaging in the form of metal cans?

How well this would go down with Fifa organisers, though, I’m not sure; there is increasing opinion that they don’t seem to be as sustainability-minded as they’d have the public believe. Environmental experts are claiming that Qatar’s World Cup is set to create even more than the organisers’ estimates of 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, and that the plan for offsetting these is flawed. “We did a little digging into Fifa’s carbon footprint estimate and we think it’s way over 10 million tonnes – so three times that, at least,” said Mike Berners-Lee of Lancaster University, in a piece from the BBC.

According to Dezeen.com, “Fossil-fuel-rich Qatar’s overall environmental record is poor. The Global Footprint Network’s Country Overshoot Day project, which marks the date when a nation’s consumption of resources exceeds yearly planetary boundaries, put Qatar first in the world for 2022 on 10 February.”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and while it does seem like all these environmental debates have come too late, at least people are highlighting them and bringing them to the forefront in the hope that, through holding the organisers accountable, there will be much tighter environmental regulations in place for future World Cup events.

Amid all the debates, Fifa has asked everyone just to ‘focus on the football,’ but this does feel like a deflection. As much as it’s wonderful to see fans coming together and celebrating the wins, at what cost does all that come? Time will tell, I suppose.

I’d like to know what our readers think about this, so please do get in touch with your thoughts.

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