Less than 48 hours before the start of the FIFA World Cup, Qatar has banned beer from World Cup stadiums in an unprecedented move. Originally, Qatar had agreed to allow restricted beer sales at stadiums of the international tournament, which will be held this year for the first time in a Muslim country. (inside.beer, 3.9.2022)
“Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters. There is no impact to the sale of Bud Zero, which will remain available at all Qatar’s World Cup stadiums.” FIFA (International Federation of Football Association) said in a terse statement on Friday.
The new incident, said to have come at the urging of Qatar's Al Thani royal family, is one of several scandals that have surfaced since the desert nation of Qatar was controversially awarded one of the world's biggest sporting events in 2010.
It also affects ABInBev’s USD 75m sponsorship agreement with FIFA for its Budweiser brand. ABInBev will likely view this as a serious breach of contract and seek compensation. In a — now deleted — tweet just before the news became official, ABInBev commented on the decision: “Well, this is awkward…”
In any case, it will induce tougher negotiations over the contract extension of Budweiser's sponsorship deal for 2026. However, it is unlikely that ABInBev will totally refrain from sponsoring the event especially with the next 2026 World Cup being hosted in North America.
Being a Muslim country, Qatar has strict laws in place around alcohol consumption, which is only permitted within hotel bars and restaurants away from street view. However, when it was awarded the World Cup in 2010 it had agreed to relax those rules for the tournament.
"This World Cup is different to others in that a larger number of fans are attending from across the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol doesn't play such a large role in the culture. The thinking was that, for many fans, the presence of alcohol would not create an enjoyable experience,” Sky News quoted an unnamed source as saying.
"The fan zones will be different in that some are clearly designated as alcohol-serving, while others are alcohol-free. Fans can decide where they want to go without feeling uncomfortable. At stadiums, this was previously not the case.”