Brewdog anti-Qatar World Cup adverts backfire after brewery staff point to ‘culture of fear’

A British brewery’s outspoken criticism of the World Cup 2022 host nation Qatar on Monday appeared to backfire as past allegations of its own “culture of fear” at workspace emerged.

BrewDog, an international network of breweries and pubs with its headquarters in Scotland, bragged about being the “proud anti-sponsor of the World F*Cup.”

“This isn’t a World Cup. It’s a World F*Cup,” it said in a statement. “Football’s been dragged through the mud before a single ball’s been kicked. Let’s be honest: Qatar won it through bribery. On an industrial scale,” the company claimed.

As part of its advertising campaign, BrewDog has put up billboards denouncing Qatar and the World Cup. “First Russia,” the banner read, referring to the 2018 FIFA World Cup host nation, “then Qatar. Can’t wait for North Korea.”

BrewDog’s latest stunt appears to follow in the footsteps of western officials and media outlets that have criticised Qatar over its human rights record.

“To be clear, we love football, we just don’t love corruption, abuse, and death,” BrewDog said on Monday.

“So join us. Let’s raise a glass to the players. To the fans. To free speech. And two fingers to anyone who thinks a World Cup in Qatar makes sense.”

The business said it would donate every dollar made from the sale of its Lost Lager beverage during the World Cup to support human rights charities.

However, with BrewDog’s bid to draw attention, came investigative reporting on the brewery’s history of harassment and hypocrisy.

“This is a sizable contradiction from BrewDog. BrewDog will be showing the matches live on screens in venues and profiting from revenue generated from all food and drink, other than Lost Lager. Whoops,” Andrew Cahill, vice president of sports and entertainment at New York marketing agency MKTG, posted on LinkedIn, according to reports.

“Not to mention the accusations around their own history of cutting corners on H&S [health and safety] and bullying staff,” replied Chris Soult, associate director at CSM Sport & Entertainment.

The craft brewer was dubbed one of the worst employers in the sector by the British trade union, Unite, according to reports.

“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,’” Bryan Simpson, Unite’s industrial organiser for the hospitality sector, told City A.M.

“This is yet another disingenuous advertising campaign designed to distract customers from the fact that BrewDog is one of the worst employers in the brewing industry when it comes to doing the right thing thing by workers.”

‘Racist’ campaigns pitted against Qatar

With the global spotlight being placed on the Middle East’s first ever FIFA World Cup, host nation Qatar has been the subject of incessant Western scrutiny over its human rights record. This prompted many, including top officials, to label such headlines as Islamophobic and racist.

Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as well as other top Qatari officials have repeatedly slammed the “racism” behind the campaigns, especially since they have continued to emerge despite Qatar addressing concerns and launching major reforms.

Last month, the amir described the campaigns as “ferocious” and “malicious” and questioned intentions behind the criticism.

Echoing similar sentiments, Sheikh Mohammed also cited racism.

Speaking to Le Monde, the Qatari diplomat said he came across recent commentary that accused Qatar of not being “intellectually and culturally ready” to host the World Cup.

“Is such racism acceptable in Europe in the 21st century? Football belongs to everyone. It is not reserved for a club of elites. Four hundred and fifty million Arabs are delighted that the World Cup is finally being held in their region,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

More recently,  the Chief Executive Officer of Qatar 2022 Nasser Al-Khater said on Monday that the campaign against Qatar and its hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is linked to Europe’s refusal to see a country outside its region take on the tournament.

“European countries feel they have monopoly over the World Cup. Europe has hosted 11 tournaments out of 22 tournaments, of course it refuses that a country like Qatar or an Arab Muslim country hosts a tournament like the World Cup,” Al-Khater told Al Jazeera Arabic in a televised interview.

Meanwhile, the World Cup CEO added that Europe has long seen the Arab world as a conflict-ridden region, a depiction that has also been repeatedly highlighted in its media discourse.

This week, French outlet Le Canard Enchaîné has come under fire for publishing a caricature depicting Arabs in ‘Qatar’ football kits as terrorists. The image employs the exhausted use of ‘savages’ – ‘long bearded’ angry men with dark hair, angry expressions in possession of guns and knives.

However, Al-Khater believes the World Cup will debunk such images portrayed by Europe.

When asked about Qatar’s strategy in responding to the ongoing criticism, Al-Khater said that some were worth responding to while others were unworthy of an official address. 

“For us, the success of the World Cup is a priority,” he said.

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