FA Cup: King of Beers v Health Fears
Eating horse meat, buying Celine Dion albums, considering Sharon Stone to be a great actress: they do things differently in France and sometimes not just to be contrary. Take the sponsorship of sport, for example.
In the UK, we are quite happy for a whisky to sponsor a Formula One team, a brewery to back our premier racing event and now "the great American lager" to accompany our most famous football competition.
This could never happen across the Channel.
Twenty years ago, a French government minister called Claude Evin decided to ignore the protests of his country's powerful alcohol industry and ban the direct or indirect advertising of booze on TV and cinema and in all sports facilities from Roland Garros to the local baths.
Sponsorship deals for one of the FA's iconic brands will help pay for its iconic home Photo: Getty
The "Loi Evin" was a bold move as French sport was just as addicted to the bottle as British sport is now. There was also the small matter of France's bid to stage the 1998 World Cup, an event partially bankrolled by the same purveyor of faux Bohemia that has just snaffled the FA Cup.
Not now Claude, went the cries from the plonk companies, you can't have a Sepp Club party without the King of Beers. You will scare Fifa off or bankrupt us with your paternalistic meddling.
These companies had just spent the previous decade being completely free to advertise their products in any way they saw fit. Alcohol makes you more successful and better looking? Mais oui!
But this was a dangerous message for a country that drank more than most. So if industry could not be trusted to regulate itself, politicians would do it for them.
Seven years later, France hosted a successful World Cup, even managing to win it, but the Loi Evin held firm and continues to do so despite the repeated efforts of advertisers and their lobbyists to knock it down.
The unveiling of Liverpool's new third kit this week has provoked plenty of comment but it will not be the first time in recent years the "Reds" have been forced to wear a strange white shirt. In Rafa Benitez's final season in charge, Liverpool donned a throw-back Carlsberg-free outfit three times: twice on Champions League duty in France and once in fellow booze-banners Norway for a friendly in Oslo. There was no "cyan" in that shirt, though.
And French sports fans have grown used to seeing their sides perform admirably in something called the H Cup, which might sound like a Carry On joke but is in fact the same rugby union competition which refreshes the parts etc etc.
But has the Loi Evin worked?
To really answer that question we would have to create two Frances, one with advertising restrictions and one without, and study the difference: no self-respecting Brit could advocate that.
So I have no intention of featuring in one of Ben Goldacre's Bad Science columns by suggesting the Loi Evin is behind the reduction in per capita consumption of alcohol in France from 30 litres in 1960 to 15 litres in 2005. But I will note it.
And I am not the only one. The British Medical Association (BMA), the British Liver Trust, the Royal College of Physicians and assorted other concerned parties have called on the British Government to follow France and Norway's example (not that it is just those two - India, Kenya, Sweden, Ukraine and large parts of Asia have also banned booze ads).
Gerrard models Liverpool's fourth strip
A study by the BMA in 2009 revealed that alcohol-related illnesses were costing the National Health Service £3bn a year and killing 40,000 Britons.
Meanwhile, the drinks industry was spending £800m annually marketing its products. A quarter of that was estimated to be on sports campaigns, making alcohol the second most important sponsor of sport in the UK after the financial services sector.
Given that fact, is it really surprising a cash-strapped FA opted to sell its most prized asset to the Belgian-Brazilian giant Anheuser-Busch InBev and its unfathomably popular brew? After all, the FA already has Carlsberg as a "partner" (and those other notable health and fitness brands McDonald's and Mars too) and Carling sponsors English football's second cup competition.
At "the FA Cup with Budweiser" launch on Thursday there was much talk about "iconic brands" coming together, "global reach" being enhanced and "a bespoke programme to promote responsible drinking to football fans". And swapping a low-profile energy firm from Dusseldorf for a sponsor that people around the world have actually heard of (if not enjoyed) could be described as a good piece of business, particularly if it brings in the reported £8m a year.
But does that make it right?
I asked the BMA and the answer was an emphatic no.
"By sponsoring events like the FA Cup, alcohol companies are associating their products with a healthy activity and promoting them to a huge audience of young people," it said.
"Given the amount spent on sponsorship and promotion, it's not surprising that young people see alcohol as normal, even healthy. The irony is alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for premature death and related to over 60 medical conditions."
I also spoke to Conservative MP and doctor Sarah Wollaston, who earlier this year proposed a bill calling on the UK to copy the Loi Evin. Wollaston was on a train back to her constituency but her message came through loud and clear.
"This is an entirely inappropriate relationship for the FA to get into," she said. "And as the French have proved, sport does not need to climb into bed with alcohol companies."
There are other opinions, however. The Portman Group, a trade body set up to represent the UK drinks industry's interests, defended the Budweiser deal.
"There is no reason why alcohol companies should not sponsor major sporting events," Portman Group chief executive David Poley said.
"There are strict controls in place to ensure such sponsorship is carried out responsibly. Under these controls, companies cannot target under-18s with alcohol-branded merchandise and, at the very minimum, 75% of the audience must be aged 18 or over."
Regardless of which side is right, alcohol looks set to remain part of sport.
After all, Budweiser sold its space on the perimeter hoardings at the 1998 World Cup to Casio for £10m and kept hold of its tickets and Fifa partner status. It was back all over the World Cup in 2002 and forcibly ejecting rival brands in South Africa last year.
Even the best-intended laws are powerless to those determined to sidestep them.