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Brewdog labels itself ‘anti-sponsor’ of Qatar World Cup... but will still show it

"If you want to make a stand, take a hit," said one critic of Brewdog's decision to condemn the Qatar World Cup while still showing it

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BrewDog said it had not yet chosen which charities it would be donating to. Image: Bernt Rostad/flickr

Controversial beermaker Brewdog’s latest PR stunt branding itself an “anti-sponsor” of the Qatar World Cup has fallen flat after critics pointed out it will still show the tournament in its pubs.

The brewery has labelled the tournament the World F*Cup and announced it will be donating all profits of its Lost Lager sold during the tournament to “fight human rights abuse” in protest at Qatar’s record.

It added: “Two fingers to anyone who thinks a World Cup in Qatar is a good idea”.

The stance was swiftly called out as posturing because alongside its condemnation of the widespread human rights problems, Brewdog is advertising its fan zones as “the perfect place to enjoy the Football World Cup this year”.

When pushed on why it was still showing the games in its bars, Brewdog said on Twitter: “We are, because [we] don’t want to stop people watching the football. Corruption shouldn’t stop this. Besides, the more football we show, the more Lost is sold, the more money goes to charity.”

A spokesperson said the company “thought long and hard” about whether to show matches in its bars, before adding that the charities receiving its Lost Lager profits had not yet been chosen.

The brewer has been accused of “cheek” for the campaign by an organiser for a hospitality union.

Bryan Simpson, a lead organiser of Unite Hospitality, said: “The treatment of workers in Qatar is an international scandal but Brewdog have a cheek saying anything about workers’ rights when hundreds of their own workers (past and present) signed an open letter detailing a ‘culture of fear’ with workers demanding an apology for ‘harassing, assaulting, belittling, insulting or gaslighting them’.”

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Over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it was awarded the world cup, while homosexuality is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Labour leader Keir Starmer said he wouldn’t be attending the tournament over Qatar’s human rights record.

Controversies around the World Cup also include allegations of slavery, bribery and corruption.

“The more football you show, the more money YOU make from all the other beers and food you’re selling,” one person wrote on Twitter responding to Brewdog’s announcement. “If you want to make a stand, take a hit. Don’t profit massively while waving your pathetic little ‘values’ flag.”

“Why not just sell Lost Lager during the games, donate ALL profits from ALL beers sold during the games or just not show the games if you are so anti-Qatar ?” wrote another.

Earlier this year BrewDog’s CEO James Watt was accused of making female bartenders feel “uncomfortable” and “powerless” in a BBC documentary. Watt denied the allegations and BrewDog lodged a complaint with broadcast regulator Ofcom over the programme.

Responding to backlash over the Qatar anti-sponsorship, Watt added: “Let’s be honest – people are still going to watch the games – so we want to give them the opportunity to watch the games and raise money to drive positive change at the same time.

“Meaning people can show their love for the game…and their anger at who happens to be hosting it.”

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The BrewDog spokesperson added: “There’s been an incredible response to our Anti-Sponsor of the World F*Cup campaign.

“We thought long and hard about whether we wanted to show matches in our bars but decided to do so for two reasons.

“One, if you love craft beer and you also love football you shouldn’t be denied the chance to enjoy them together just because FIFA is corrupt.

“Two, all profits from Lost Lager sold during the tournament will be donated to human rights charities. We will raise a lot more money if we show the matches in our bars”

Asked which charities were being supported, the spokesperson added: “We are evaluating a number of charity partners. We will only donate to registered charities that demonstrably and directly help those who have been affected by human rights injustices and violations in Qatar. Net profits will be calculated at the end of December and all donations will be made in January 2023.”

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