The World Cup, the international football — or soccer — tournament held each year, is known for its fast-paced games and beer-drinking fans.
Now, in a remarkable turnaround just two days before the tournament begins, Qatar, the Muslim country hosting the tournament, has announced it will ban the sale of alcoholic beer at and around its eight World Cup stadiums.
“Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA [Fédération Internationale de Football Association], 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,” FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, wrote on Twitter.
What’s remarkable is that Qatar announced in September that alcoholic beer would be sold “within the stadium perimeter” for designated periods before and after World Cup matches.
While Bud Zero, Budweiser’s nonalcoholic beer, will be sold at all of the World Cup stadiums, the news was not received well by management at Budweiser. That’s because its parent company, AB InBev, had paid $75 million to be the World Cup’s sponsor and beer sales were likely to be high among the expected 1.2 million fans traveling to watch the matches.
“Well, this is awkward….” Budweiser wrote on Twitter before quickly deleting the post, according to CNBC and other sources.
A Rocky World Cup From The Beginning
For instance, its selection in 2010 as this year’s host country was immediately met with international criticism over a host of issues including human rights concerns, women’s rights, workers’ conditions, visitor capacity issues, and cultural and religious restrictions such as strict Islamic laws against LGBT rights and alcohol consumption.
Secondly, the World Cup is traditionally held in June and July, but that wasn’t possible this year due to Qatar’s scorching summer temperatures. Indeed, daytime summer temperatures in Qatar often are 113 degrees or hotter. Instead, the World Cup tournament’s dates were switched to begin in November, when the weather is more tolerable for players, fans, and referees.
The Impact Of Banning Beer Sales
FIFA was careful to write, “The tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022” in its statement.
Even so, industry observers and analysts alike agree that the decision to ban alcoholic beer sales at the World Cup will have a far-reaching impact for FIFA as it searches for future World Cup sponsors.
For instance, Conrad Wiacek, GlobalData’s head of sport analysis, said the move “risks alienating” Budweiser. That’s all the more troubling, he continued, because the brand’s partnership with FIFA expires after the World Cup, according to MarketingWeek.
“The fallout of Qatar’s decision could include tougher negotiations for [Budweiser’s] contract renewal for 2026, where FIFA would have typically expected to double the current sponsorship fee,” Wiacek said.
Furthermore, Ben Peppi, head of sports services at JMW Solicitors, said the move is “hugely damaging” for FIFA’s brand itself, according to CNN.
“Brands will be treading very carefully now around FIFA for future tournaments,” Peppi said. “If two days out before the biggest global sporting event it hosts, FIFA turns to a brand and say, ‘you can’t do this and you can’t do that’ and breaches that contract, that’s not going to give any security to any new brand.”
You can learn more about the country and traveling there in our Qatar content, including: