Day 79: World Cup – and socially mandated p***-up! How #drinking and #football can really get under the skin of your #sobriety


It’s all going unexpectedly well in Russia…but it’s a bit rocky in Sobertown

Day 79 (with one slip) – and it’s unusually happy days in Merrie England. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, I’m still a Sober Girl, and the England football team seem to be able to play football: in short, everything’s a bit weird. We’re much more used to drizzle and crushing disappointment, particularly during our sporting summers over here. In fact, anyone who has even a nodding acquaintance with the British attitude towards sport knows that we manage to combine totally unrealistic expectations with a sort of gleeful self-loathing, simultaneously waving the bunting and muttering darkly about how our footballers/rugby fellas/tennis player/fast car driver will inevitably mess it all up. The press sharpen their pens and their bad puns (Harry’s Pain! Jamie Hardly! Jordan Prickford! Marcus Car-crashford!)

Oh, and we drink.

We drink A LOT.

According to the website

Consumers are expected to spend £193m in high street pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars across the country throughout World Cup 2018. If Gareth Southgate’s men reach the final, this figure could reach £488m.

Meanwhile, with 86% of fans expecting to watch the tournament at home, retailers could take £240m on food and £297m on alcohol if England surpass the group stages, with this combined figure rising to £1.12bn if the team makes it to the final.

Alcohol sales soar during football tournaments…and we’ve seen before that Britain sells most of its booze to problem drinkers.  Even more disturbing is that alcohol plus high-running emotions leads to a direct spike in domestic violence incidents when England lose a match. It is, to say the least, a toxic mix.


What’s more, the entire culture of football is deeply, consistently embedded in the culture of aggressive alcohol promotion. Premier League football has, for a long time, been squirrelled away far from terrestrial TV. What do you do if you can’t afford/justify a Sky and BT AND now Amazon Prime (in 2018-19) subscription but still want to keep up with the matches? Well, duh. You go to the pub. (We certainly did. When I was considering this year of sobriety, one of the biggest “uh-oh” moments for my partner B. and I was when we wondered – “what the heck is going to happen to our regular Saturday or Sunday afternoons in the old Dog & Partridge watching either of our teams bang a ball about?” Answer? Certainly for now the answer is “we can’t go any more.” And it sort of sucks.)

Even more “hang on a sec, guys, is this sensible?” is the fact that the World Cup has AN OFFICIAL BEER. It’s Budweiser. In the ITV coverage, every commercial break is parenthesised by images of thousands of drones flying in bottles of Bud to audiences in stadiums. This is one of the billboard and splash ads:


Not only are professional sports people now one of the least likely demographics to drink regular or large amounts of alcohol, but also sporting events were at the forefront of banning tobacco-related sponsorship because the incongruence between feats of athleticism and state-sanctioned drugs became…just too weird. In addition, Bud’s campaign seems on the VERY fringes of what is acceptable in the UK legal guidance for alcohol advertising, including the following quotations directly from the Advertising Standards Agency’s material.

Particular caution should be exercised with:

*Personalities. Avoid those who are likely to have a strong appeal to the young; for example…sportsmen and sportswomen who command particular admiration of the young… any person who is likely to have strong influence on the behaviour of the young (So…literally all footballers? There’s not a picture of Dele Alli on the footage, no…but the World Cup is an absolute shop-window of “sportsmen who command particular admiration of the young”)

*There must be no suggestion of reckless abandon in the way that alcohol is handled and dispensed (Because thousands of drones delivering beers is incredibly methodical, safe and dull, yeah?)

*Alcohol must not be portrayed as capable of changing mood (The Bud Drones fly over faces lighting up to see them appear. The actual slogan, as seen above, is “Light up the FIFA World Cup.” Not gonna lie, guys, the implication is pretty heavy that those moods have been CHANGED.)

Even more irritatingly, in today’s commentary on the England v Panama match (England won. By a LOT of goals. It’s relevant to the anecdote, honest!), towards the end, one of the pundits said – and I paraphrase but it’s pretty close – “If that’s not a good reason to go into the garden this afternoon and crack open a bottle of fizz, I don’t know what is.” And do you know what? I was SO BLOODY TRIGGERED AND TEMPTED AND MADE TO CRAVE BOOZE.

Ok, on the one hand, get over yourself, Andie. That nice Mr Commentator wasn’t targeting YOU. You absolutely hate the word “triggered”. For lots of people, who don’t have a problem with drinking too much booze, spending an afternoon in the garden with celebratory champers might be a lovely, unproblematic thing.

But on the other hand…at that moment, and frankly for this whole football-sodden week, I have been craving my ass off. It’s nearly 3 months now, and things are going well, sobriety-wise, and suddenly I can’t walk into my local Tesco without wanting to whimper, and I can’t walk down the wine aisle at all, and it just might be something to do with the TRUMPIAN WALL OF BOOZE they’ve erected by the entrance. Why is it there? Go on, have a guess. It’s next to the disposable BBQs and Doritos…and a huge whiteboard with the football results on it.

It’s because of the bloody World Cup.