Want to host the World Cup? You’d better be prepared to serve beer. That’s the message that FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, is pushing in Brazil and Russia, urging the countries to drop restrictions on beer sales in stadiums.
"Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we're going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that's something we won't negotiate," FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke told journalists Thursday in Rio de Janeiro, according to the BBC.
In St. Petersburg, Russia, FIFA President Sepp Blatter urged that country to allow beer sales in stadiums before it hosts the World Cup in six years. The Russian soccer union chief has already been calling on the country to bring beer advertisements and brews back to Russian soccer stadiums.
Brazilian stadiums went dry in an effort to reduce violence at games. Health officials have defended the ban. "We will do everything we can to stop this from happening," prosecutor Paulo Castilho said two years ago to the Associated Press.
But a Brazilian lawmaker has proposed overturning the alcohol ban, not just for World Cup games but for soccer matches across the country, Reuters reported in December.
Russia hasn't tipped its hand. “We’ll see,” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday.
Grant Wahl, senior writer at Sports Illustrated magazine, sees the beer debate as another example of FIFA trying to leverage its power among countries eager to host the World Cup. "The U.S. always presents itself to FIFA as waiting in the wings in case they change their mind," Wahl said.
The FIFA push could be a problem for Qatar, which is slated to host the World Cup after Russia in 2022: Drinking alcohol is prohibited everywhere in the conservative Muslim country except for a few pubs tucked away in five-star hotels, an issue widely remarked upon by soccer fans when Qatar was chosen.
-- Emily Alpert
Photo: Polish fans enjoy a beer before a match at the 2006 FIFA World Cup between Poland and Costa Rica in Hanover, Germany. Credit: Patrick Lux / European Pressphoto Agency