Brewer backlash

BrewDog accused of hypocrisy over Qatar campaign

BrewDog says it is standing up for human rights

BrewDog is back in the headlines for the wrong reasons after being accused of hypocrisy over its advertising campaign opposing the World Cup in Qatar.

The Aberdeenshire-based company has taken a public stand against the host country over its human rights record and has mounted a poster campaign bearing the slogan “proud anti-sponsor of the World F*Cup”. Another reads: “First Russia, then Qatar. Can’t wait for North Korea”.

BrewDog criticised criminalisation of homosexuality, the use of flogging as punishment for committing crimes, and the reported deaths of thousands of migrant workers working on World Cup infrastructure projects in the country.

In a statement it said: “Football’s been dragged through the mud before a single ball’s been kicked.

“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.”

But critics have accused the firm of hypocrisy after it emerged it will show the matches in its pubs. They also pointed to recent allegations of a “culture of fear” at the company which focused on co-founder James Watt.

On the decision to screen matches, the firm said it was donating all the profits from its Lost Lager drink sold during the World Cup tournament to human rights charities.

But Andrew Cahill, vice president of sports and entertainment at New York marketing agency MKTG, posted on LinkedIn: “This is a sizeable 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.”

Trade union Unite also criticised the craft-beer maker. Bryan Simpson, Unite’s industrial organiser for the hospitality sector, told City AM: “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’.

Drinkers took to social media to point out the brewer’s hypocrisy. One tweeted: “Why not take a principled stance, and give people a place to drink without being subjected to it?”.

Mr Watt argued the company wanted to “give [people] the opportunity to watch the games and raise money to drive positive change at the same time.”

The company has invested in measures to improve working conditions and to improve its employee relations. Mr Watt publicly apologised for former employees’ negative experiences at the firm.

A spokesperson for BrewDog told Fortune there had been an “incredible response” to its anti-sponsor campaign, adding that the company had thought “long and hard” about whether to show the matches in its venues.

Regarding its workplace culture, the BrewDog spokesperson said: “We accept that we fell short during a period of rapid growth a few years ago. We’ve apologised for that, but we’re a different business today and totally focused on becoming the best employer in our sector.”

The tournament, which is set to begin in Qatar on 20 November, has been plagued by scandal since the country was announced as the host in 2010.

It faced corruption allegations over its bid, including accusations that the country had bribed FIFA officials with millions of dollars. A two-year investigation later cleared Qatar of corruption.

But its human rights record and anti-LGBT laws have been roundly condemned. French cities are refusing to screen matches in public areas, even though France are defending holders of the trophy.  

A number of players, including those from England, France, Germany, and Belgium, will wear OneLove armbands during their matches to protest against LGBTQ+ discrimination.

The football authorities in 10 European countries, including England, Germany, and Portugal, said in an open letter on Sunday that they want governing body FIFA to take action to improve human rights in Qatar.

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