How the idea of returning beer to stadiums causes dispute between officials and deputies

Minnikhanov's initiative, which has become a draft bill, has been supported by the ministry of finance and the ministry of sports this autumn; opposed — by the State Duma committee on physical culture, the legal department of the State Duma and Rospotrebnadzor

How the idea of returning beer to stadiums causes dispute between officials and deputies
Photo: Maksim Platonov

The Ministry of Healthcare of Russia opposed the initiative of President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov to return the sale of beer to stadiums a year ago, on 10 October. Overt he months, the discussion of the idea has developed almost into a “beer war” of various agencies, departments and lobbyists. Realnoe Vremya online newspaper reminds about the “beer issue” story and the chronicle of fighting around it, which has led to fierce confrontation among the sports ministry, the ministry of finance, the ministry of healthcare, the ministry of economic development, Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), Russian Football Union (RFS) and Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The views around the legislative initiative for the return of beer in the stadiums have divided. The deputies of the State Duma, having not received a majority of votes in the committee on sports, now count on the approval of the draft bill in the committee on economic policy. Parliamentarians are preparing to hold a round table discussion on the problem until the end of November with the participation of the owners of the largest stadiums, clubs, RFS, members of the public, seeking support including from the regional authorities.

About how the ministry of healthcare did not support the “beer initiative” of the president of Tatarstan

Yesterday it was exactly a year since the Russian ministry of healthcare opposed the initiative of President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov to sell beer at stadiums. “We do not support this initiative, as it is not sufficiently justified, and the successful World Cup in 2018 is not an indicator,” the department said drily, noting that allowing the sale can lead to an increase in alcohol consumption, as well as the number of offences. With reference to the data of the National scientific centre of narcology, they added that in recent years in Russia there has been a decrease in the incidence of alcoholic psychosis from 80,35 to 40,6 cases per 100,000 population.

Let us remind that the initiator of the new draft bill in the summer of 2018 was the president of Tatarstan, who asked “to return beer to the stadiums for the sake of the Orthodox”. He justified the proposal to Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the sports council and the council of the organizing committee Russia-2018 in Kaliningrad by “the concern for the Orthodox brothers”. He added that during the World Cup in Kazan there was sold beer worth 89 million rubles and “there were no excesses, no problems”.

The proposal to Vladimir Putin at the meeting of the sports council and the council of the organizing committee Russia-2018 was announced by Rustam Minnikhanov. Photo:

Why ROC and Golikova are against, while RFS, ministry of finance and ministry of sports — for

The very relaxation with the sale of beer in stadiums last year was caused by the unyielding position of FIFA, which pushed through the federal bill signed by Putin in 2013: it allowed the retail sale of alcohol, sold by the federation and its partners. As a result, eight prohibited zones for alcohol sales were introduced in Kazan during the 2018 World Cup matches, but beer was available at the stadium and in the fan zone. The Russian Premier League, whose President Sergey Pryadkin said in May 2018 that the league expected to resume the negotiations and attract beer brands as sponsors, also advocated lifting the ban. In 2014, the ministry of economic development of the Russian Federation proposed to return beer to the stadiums (unsuccessfully).

Almost immediately after the statements of the two presidents, opinions were divided again, both the supporters and the opponents continued to speak out on this issue throughout 2019, when there was an active struggle of various lobbying agencies: the ministry of healthcare and religious figures spoke against, sports departments, ministry of finance and beer “kings” — for.

Thus, the representative of the ROC, Valery Doronkin, the head of the coordination centre for combating alcoholism and the assertion of sobriety of the Synodal Department of the Moscow Patriarchate for charity, admitted that the Orthodox really do not have a complete ban on alcohol consumption, “But we are against drunkenness, against the use of alcohol in public places, against the free sale of alcohol. Orthodox does not mean drunk, drunkenness is considered a terrible sin.” Therefore, the ROC came out “categorically against the proposal”.

At the same time, Minister of Sports of Russia Pavel Kolobkov spoke in favour of lifting the ban on the sale of alcohol: “The issue of beer should be discussed in conjunction with the issue of the heritage of sports facilities and their operation. We have experience selling beer at sporting events. Selling beer does not affect the behaviour of fans.”

Minister of Sports of Russia Pavel Kolobkov spoke in favour of lifting the ban on the sale of alcohol. Photo:

In May 2019, Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Social Policy Tatyana Golikova said that she was categorically against “such a return and such a rollback”: “Because I know how difficult it is to overcome and how expensive it is in terms of contribution to the health of a particular citizen.” On the contrary, President of the RFU Alexander Dyukov spoke in favour of the initiative.

What State Duma deputies proposed in the new “beer initiative” No. 759159-7

Different parties continued to struggle behind the scenes in the State Duma of the Russian Federation. At the end of December, a number of deputies have already tried to make amendments to the bills that allowed the use of beer in stadiums, but unsuccessfully. Six months later, the attempt was repeated. On July 22, 2019, amendments to the federal bills governing the production, circulation of alcohol, as well as the development of physical education and sports, were made. The authors of the initiative (the draft bill No. 759159-7) — LDPR deputies Igor Lebedev and Dmitry Svishchev — proposed not to extend the ban on the retail sale of beer and beer drinks, carried out by organizations and entrepreneurs on the basis of contracts with the organizers of sports events, when these organizations provide catering services during matches of official football competitions (except for the time of children's and youth sports events).

In their opinion, it is possible to expend the funds received by the organizers from the sale of beer on funding the events for the development of professional and youth sport: “This draft federal bill has been prepared taking into account the existing needs of sports organizations for additional sources of funding their activities and involves the creation of conditions for directing part of the budgets of breweries on the support and development of sports.”

The authors of the initiative are LDPR deputies Igor Lebedev (pictured) and Dmitry Svishchev. Photo:

The deputies also referred to the fact that the practice of sponsoring professional sports events by brewing companies is common throughout the world, moreover, “all rights to advertising during international sports competitions belong not to their local organizers, but to international sports federations”. Thus, the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games appointed the British division of the company Heineken (beer producer) as the official sponsor of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. And the title sponsor of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), responsible for hosting all Olympic Games, as well as one of the key partners of the World Cup, is Budweiser brand, owned by American Anheuser-Bush Inc.

Historically, the deputies noted in the explanatory note to the draft bill, beer companies have acted and are sponsors of football teams around the world (Carlsberg and Liverpool football club, Heineken and UEFA Champions League, Paulaner Brewery and Bavaria Brewery, Borussia and Bitburger). In addition, beer “is allowed at football matches in almost all European countries — in Germany, England, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Hungary and many others.” Before the ban in 2005 on the advertising the beer, “Russian football had coexisted peacefully with beer”, for example, Stary Melnik was the official sponsor of the Russian national football team, Baltika sponsored Zenit.

“Beer consumption is not limited in football stadiums throughout the world…”

Ayrat Khayrullin, the ex-brewer, now a member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, who said that there is a direct link between beer consumption and life expectancy: the more beer consumption, the lower the mortality rate, spoke out in support of the draft bill in July in the interview with Realnoe Vremya:

“There are such studies in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, England. Brewing is a very deep and serious culture. Beer is called in Europe ‘liquid bread’, it is not considered alcohol.”

He noted with regret a “sharp turn” when beer in Russia began to struggle, limit its sale, advertising, raise the excise rate. There was a sharp drop in beer consumption per capita, but the Russians did not drink less: they just began to drink more strong alcoholic beverages, and illegal, surrogates, “samogon, colognes”: “All over the world at football stadiums, beer consumption is not limited, and brewing companies invest a lot of money in support of sports.”

Ayrat Khayrullin stated that there is a direct link between beer consumption and life expectancy: the greater the consumption of beer, the lower the mortality rate. Photo: Roman Khasaev

Public organizations opposed the bill at that time. For example, Chairman of Sober Bashkortostan Marat Abdullin stated that the prospects of the bill were few, as Putin considered it premature, as well as the ministry of internal affairs: the criminal component, if you return the beer to football fans, may increase. Although the “beer lobby” has a lot of possibilities, given the trillion-dollar turnover of the industry.

Ministry of finance approves the initiative as part of the September “beer war”

About what PR opportunities it has, it was possible to judge in September, when immediately in dozens of publications and agencies there appeared materials in support of the resolution of beer in the stadiums, having even a shade of confidence: they said before it would happen by the end of the year. Materials appeared exactly a couple of days before the Svishchev-Lebedev bill on September 11 was to be considered at one of the relevant committees of the State Duma on physical culture, sports, tourism and youth affairs.

A few days earlier, on September 9, the finance ministry again made a statement, it approved the bill on the return of beer sales in the stadiums, it suggested directing the proceeds for football development: “The sale of alcohol at sporting events does not threaten the safety of fans, and even, on the contrary, may contribute to the development of the market of consumer services,” the ministry stated.

Eduard Latypov, the president of the fan club of the Russian national team Russia Unites, said that he did not see anything criminal in this, and he did not see a direct link between violence in the stands and the sale of alcohol at the stadium. Then the “heavy artillery” was used: the same day, on September 9, Director General of the Organizing Committee of Euro 2020 in St. Petersburg Aleksey Sorokin said that the stadium in St. Petersburg during the matches of Euro 2020 was going to sell beer, adding that there was no evidence that the sale of beer adversely affected the situation at the stadium. “We survived a very big tournament, during which beer was sold in stadiums — and we did not face any incident. We are going to sell beer at the Euro 2020, this is our commitment,” he said. On the same day, the initiative was supported by the honorary president of the RFS, Vyacheslav Koloskov, who noted that the idea of the ban was absurd from the beginning.

Eduard Latypov does not see a direct link between violence in the stands and the sale of alcohol at the stadium. Photo:

...but the State Duma Committee on physical culture and sports and the legal department of the State Duma — no

All of them rejoiced too early, as on September 11, the State Duma committee on physical culture, sports, tourism and youth affairs did not support the bill on the return of alcoholic beverages to football arenas, as it did not collect the necessary number of votes, the document was sent for revision, although it is likely to be initiated its second consideration.

“Unfortunately, we have been hammered into the stereotype that beer in stadiums is bad. Now people think beer — it's alcoholism, people lying drunk in the doorways, and so on. The World Cup and the Confederations Cup have shown a positive example, and now the Euro will be allowed to sell beer. Beer companies are global sponsors of football, and we cannot get away from this,” said the disappointed author of the bill Svishchev. We would also note that still on the law there “hangs” the conclusion of the Legal Department of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, and it is also negative. The Legal Department believes that a number of provisions of the bill need “mutual correlation and coordination”.

“There is a different culture of fan support, there are no fans-morons, like in football, who spoil the whole thing”

Despite this, the parties continue the “beer war». At the end of September, now already Rospotrebnadzor did not support the initiative to resume the sales of beer at sports facilities: “Alcohol consumption is associated with the risk of health problems such as mental and behavioural disorders, including alcohol dependence, severe non-communicable diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases, as well as injuries as a result of violence and traffic accidents,” they explained. The former deputy prime minister and former head of the presidential administration, Sergey Ivanov, advocated the sale of beer at stadiums in general, but only ... not football ones:

“At basketball, hockey, volleyball, handball matches, beer should definitely be sold. Here the culture of fan support is different, here there are no fans-morons, like on football, who spoil the whole thing,” he declared, though then added. “There is nothing bad that in the sale of low-alcohol drinks, after all, everything was perfect at the World Cup.”

Sergey Ivanov, the former deputy prime minister and former head of the presidential administration, advocated the sale of beer at stadiums in general, but only... not football ones. Photo:

The authors of the “initiative” are to hold a round table discussion, the draft bill itself has been sent to the legislative assemblies of the regions

At the moment, the date of consideration of the bill has not been determined. It is known only that the ministry of sports supports the draft bill with the condition of its completion and clear indication of the rules for the sale of beer and the distribution of income from it. The authors of the bill count on the support of the committee on economic policy of the State Duma. MPs will ask the committee to hold a round table discussion in October and November before the bill is considered in the first reading and invite all parties, including owners of major stadiums, clubs, RFS, and members of the public to discuss it.

According to a number of observers, now the draft bill No. 759159-7 on the permission of retail sale of beer at football stadiums during “adult” matches in October has been sent for approval to the legislative assemblies of the subjects of the federation. Some representatives have already begun to speak about it. For example, the recently appointed minister of sports of Krasnoyarsk Krai Pavel Rostovtsev has supported the bill: “On the one hand, it is necessary to return, there is a certain charm in it. On the other hand, security requirements must be met. If you want my opinion: I would love to come to the stadium with friends and have a glass of beer at halftime.”

By Sergey Afanasyev