The football event of the season has started; it is time for the Football World Cup and international followers to support their countries while enjoying some of the best football. Interestingly, the profusion of alcohol sponsoring alcoholic drinks has also come with the event. Alcohol brands are present as one of the main sponsors of this FIFA event but equally as for some national teams (take the example of Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Japan, México, Nigeria, Panamá, Portugal, Peru or Spain).

On another hand, The Economic Times reported on Moscow fans complaining of not having access to beer due to low supplies in certain restaurants of the capital. Despite the opportunity for FIFA to share and disseminate healthy messages to the millions of spectators, we appear to be bombarded by noticeable and subtle alcohol related messages during the 32 days that this competition lasts for. Take for instance the ‘man of the match’ prize after each match sponsored by Budweiser.

FIFA should acknowledge that among many of its followers, there are young people and children who are immediately submerged by all the alcohol publicity and that may take this as normal behaviour.

Young people who drink alcohol are placed at enhanced risk of immediate and longer term health and social harms. Harmful use of alcohol has been linked to more than 200 disease and injury conditions and causes a large economic and social burden in societies (WHO, 2014). Underage drinking and heavy episodic drinking of alcohol is of particular concern in Europe because of its impact on health and welfare of the population. A number of studies have linked alcohol use by young people to various problems, both short and long term.

Eurocare is coordinating the FYFA project (Focus on Youth, Football and Alcohol), a joint action aiming to reduce underage drinking and heavy episodic drinking among young people. Our hope is to contribute towards reducing alcohol related harm with a special focus on underage drinking. We aim at generating good practices targeting the reduction of heavy episodic drinking among young people and developing guidelines on this matter for youth sport clubs across Europe.

We consider that the Football World Cup is an excellent opportunity to open our eyes to this reality and to analyse what is the reality of alcohol, sport and young people.

This project will review policies and practices relating to young people, alcohol and international sport, to gather evidence of best practices. We want to talk to high-level stakeholders and alcohol industry representatives to explore their views. Also, local sport stakeholders and young people will be equally interviewed and communication materials will be produced on alcohol policy and early intervention.

It is important to underline youth’s exposure to alcohol marketing, attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol and what they would consider to be effective practices will be produced. We care for better policies and tailored measures that can help young people and society in relation to alcohol.

FYFA will promote the exchange of knowledge and good practices between and within European countries, to raise awareness of alcohol related harm amongst policy-makers and citizens.

Written by Eurocare, The European Alcohol Policy Alliance.

All IAS Blogposts are published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Institute of Alcohol Studies.