This Bud’s For Whom?

Many countries take soccer seriously, often treating the pastime as something bordering religion. Brazil is no exception. Its national team is the only one to qualify for every FIFA World Cup since the tournament’s inception in 1930 and its five victories are the most in the quadrennial event, giving Brazil good reason to do so. So when, on October 30, 2007, FIFA — the international soccer organizing body — unanimously selected Brazil as the host of the 2014 World Cup, it was cause for celebration. Brazil was destined to become the center of the soccer world.

And FIFA, like usual, was going to make a lot of money. Among other revenue streams, the World Cup comes with sponsors, and Anheuser-Busch wanted its Budweiser brand to be the “Official Beer of the 2014 FIFA World Cup” — and the beer giant was willing to pony up a large amount of money for the honor. (This isn’t strange for Bud, either; in 2011, it signed a six year, $1.2 billion contract to become the NFL’s official beer, and Bud has been the official beer of World Cups since 1986.) Normally this would be a pretty easy deal. Bud signs, FIFA signs, Bud pays FIFA, and everyone shares a drink — an iced cold Budweiser. But there was one wrinkle:

There’s no beer allowed in the stands during Brazilian soccer games.

Brazil’s national passion for the sport has its downside: violence. Since mid-2013, there have been instances of riotshomicide via thrown toilets, and (you may want to skip clicking this next link if you’re squeamish) dismemberment. While those examples are gory and ludicrous, they’re unfortunately not all that uncommon in Brazil — or that new. The problem extends back decades and was so bad that, in 2003, the country banned the sale of alcohol during matches in hopes of reducing fan violence. (It didn’t really work all that well.) And that rule was in effective for international matches hosted in Brazil as well — including the World Cup matches.

FIFA wasn’t going to accept this result. Alcohol needed to flow during its tournament, even though the law said otherwise. In January of 2012, its General Secretary, Jerome Valcke, insisted upon it. According to the BBC, Valcke insisted that Brazil revise the law to meet FIFA’s needs: “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. The fact that we have the right to sell beer has to be a part of the law.”

And he got his way. In May of 2012, Brazil’s legislature, under pressure from FIFA, voted to change the law, allowing for sales of beer during the World Cup; many critics called the law the “Budweiser bill.” It wasn’t all fun and games, though — during the World Cup itself, Valcke openly wondered if too many people were getting too drunk too quickly during tournament, saying “maybe there were too many people who were drunk.”

Bonus Fact: Budweiser’s interest in sponsorships isn’t limited to sports. Per various sources (here’s a Google search, as I don’t want to link to Bud’s partners’ websites), the beer brand also sponsors some specialty rooms at some (legal) brothels in Nevada.

From the ArchivesSometimes, to Win, You Have to Play to Lose: The strangest soccer game ever played.

RelatedA 2014 World Cup-themed Luis Suarez bottle opener — use his teeth to open your next beer. (Don’t get the joke? Click here.)