Qatar World Cup bans alcohol around stadiums in last-ditch U-turn

Budweiser’s parent company AB InBev pays Fifa for exclusive rights to sell beer at the World Cup

Lawrence Ostlere
Friday 18 November 2022 17:31 GMT
England players meet migrant workers who built World Cup stadiums in Qatar

Qatar World Cup organisers have banned alcohol around stadium sites at the tournament in a major late U-turn.

The move comes just two days before the start of the World Cup, when hosts Qatar take on Ecuador in Doha.

Budweiser was contracted to sell alcoholic beer within the ticketed perimeter surrounding the eight World Cup venues, in a designated window three hours before each match and one hour afterwards.

Fifa said in a statement: “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 Fifa 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. Host country authorities and Fifa will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans.”

The move by Qatari authorities follows last week’s decision to hide away stalls which sell alcohol from main thoroughfares.

It leaves Fifa in a potentially compromised position with Budweiser’s parent company AB InBev, which sponsors the tournament to the tune of around £70m in exchange for exclusive rights to sell beer.

AB InBev's deal with Fifa was renewed in 2011 — after Qatar was picked as host — in a two-tournament package through 2022. However, the Belgium-based brewer has faced uncertainty in recent months on the exact details of where it can serve and sell beer in Qatar.

Fifa added: “The tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022.”

An agreement was announced in September for beer with alcohol to be sold within the stadium perimeters before and after games. Only alcohol-free Bud Zero would be sold in the stadium concourses for fans to drink in their seats in branded cups.

Budweiser was also to be sold in the evenings only at the official Fifa fan zone in downtown Al Bidda Park, where up to 40,000 fans can gather to watch games on giant screens. The price was confirmed as £12 for a beer.

Ab InBev did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Budweiser wrote on Twitter: “Well, this is awkward...”, before later deleting the tweet.

The company will be based at an upscale hotel in the West Bay area of Doha with its own branded nightclub for the tournament.

The Football Supporters’ Association said in a statement: “Some fans like a beer at the match and some don’t, but the real issue is the last minute U-turn which speaks to a wider problem – the total lack of communication and clarity from the organising committee towards supporters.

“If they can change their minds on this at a moment’s notice, with no explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will fulfil other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues.”

Meanwhile, Lucozade – a long-time sponsor of the England national team – has pulled its branding from bottles at the Qatar World Cup.

In a statement, the drinks brand said: “We continue to support all England teams, who celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion. We will not have a brand presence at press conferences, training sessions or on pitches.”

Additional reporting by AP

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