Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't let the law get in the way of a sponsorship - Brazil, Anheuser Busch, and FIFA

Fan is short for fanatic, and sports fans can often be the most fanatic of all. Because of this, governments often have to pass special laws regarding the behavior of fans.

Football (soccer) fans can often be passionate, and football fans in South America especially so. Because of this, according to CNN:

Legislation passed by the Brazilian government in 2003 prohibits the sale of all alcohol in football arenas.

I am not a Brazilian, but I certainly respect the rights of the Brazilian government to enact such legislation. And the motive behind this legislation is understandable - in my own country, there have been alcohol-fueled catastrophes at sporting events, and it is hoped that the prohibition of alcohol sales can lead to better safety for everyone.

However, the Brazilian government's action has run into a little snag.

You see, Brazil was awarded the rights to the 2014 World Cup.

And the World Cup, like many other sporting events, takes in a lot of sponsorship money.

Including sponsorship money from Anheuser Busch, the official beer of the World Cup.

And it doesn't look good to FIFA when its sponsor, the official beer of the World Cup, can't sell beer because of some silly local law. So FIFA's plan is simple:

FIFA has been battling for a change in the Brazilian law, with General Secretary Jerome Valcke currently in the South American nation to press for progress on new legislation.

However, some members of the Brazilian Congress are campaigning for the law to remain the same, a situation which is complicating arrangements for the month-long soccer showpiece.

But before you immediately voice your complaints about some sports organization trying to run roughshod over local law, remember that the same thing happened in my own country, the United States. I actually alluded to the story in a previous post. Here are the details:

Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt ... signed an executive order creating a paid King holiday for state workers in Arizona.

The holiday was never celebrated: The attorney general said Babbitt, a lame duck who was eyeing a run for president, did not have the authority to declare a paid holiday, only the Legislature could do that.

Incoming Gov. Evan Mecham, citing that attorney general’s opinion, rescinded the holiday shortly after taking office, just days before it would have been observed....

[T]he National Football League threatened in 1990 to move the Super Bowl that was scheduled to be played in Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium in 1993.

As I noted in my original post, a fight broke out between those who wanted to support a King holiday and those who wanted to retain the existing Columbus Day holiday. The King holiday ended up going to a vote and was rejected, and the NFL made good on its threat and moved the Super Bowl from Arizona to California.

One could argue that the Brazilian case is just wrangling over cold hard cash, while the Arizona case was about principles. But in truth, the Arizona case was about cold hard cash also - specifically, how a league which employed a number of African-American players could sponsor a major event in a state which, in the eyes of the all-important fans who bought NFL products, did not honor African-Americans.

Time marches on, the King holiday is celebrated in Arizona, and Anheuser Busch is currently more focused on a major American sporting event that will take place in two weeks. Of course, there's a little controversy there also, since Anheuser Busch is paying millions of dollars to SOPA/PIPA supporters such as Comcast NBC and the National Football League.

Sometimes the antics off the field are more entertaining than the antics on the field.
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