According to The New York Times, mere days from the big game, organizers have relocated Budweiser-branded beer stations from eight stadiums. Insiders say the sudden change was apparently ordered from inside the Qatari royal family whose concerned with upsetting the locals and potential security risks. Crazy enough, exclusive alcohol sponsor Budweiser only found out about the change last Saturday.
“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 the sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters,” said a statement from FIFA Media.
That means attendees can purchase alcohol at official fan zones, but not at the actual competition.
The conversation surrounding alcohol has been contentious because Qatar is a conservative Muslim country. Since its announcement in December 2010, organizers have been attempting to balance their obligations to their sponsor, Budweiser, and its host. While alcohol isn’t banned in Qatar, it can only be consumed in designated spaces like bars in hotels. So it’s easy to imagine the challenge of hosting a tournament that traditionally serves copious amounts of beer.
As a major sponsor, Budweiser pays $75 million every four years for the World Cup and has a contractual agreement that awards them sales exclusivity and a certain level of visibility. Previously it appeared that an agreement had been made that allowed beer at the stadiums. With beer now banned and FIFA unable to fulfill its contractual obligations, it could complicate its relationship with Budweiser.
At this time it’s unclear how this will impact FIFA and Budweiser’s relationship. Weathering the conservative storm, in a statement, Budweiser has shared, “our focus is on delivering the best possible consumer experience under the new circumstances.”