FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, said on Friday, just two days prior to the start of the World Cup, that the sale of all alcoholic beverages in the eight stadiums used for the tournament has been prohibited. The organization stated in a statement that the decision to prohibit alcohol sales “followed consultations between FIFA and the host nation’s authorities.”
Alcoholic beverages will be restricted from the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations, and licensed venues, removing beer sales points from the perimeters of Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadiums.
Fans will continue to have access to nonalcoholic beer at all 64 games.
AB InBev, the parent company of Budweiser, spends tens of millions of dollars for exclusive beer sales rights at each World Cup. The company’s connection with FIFA began with the tournament in 1986.
As news of the ban leaked on Friday, the official Budweiser Twitter account briefly posted: “Well, this is awkward.” The post was deleted shortly thereafter.
When Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation where alcohol and homosexuality are largely outlawed, submitted its bid to host the 2010 World Cup, it committed to respect FIFA’s commercial partners, a commitment it reaffirmed when signing contracts after winning the vote.
In order to permit alcohol sales in stadiums for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, a law had to be changed.
After Qatar was controversially selected as host in 2010, AB InBev’s contract with FIFA was renewed in 2011 for a two-tournament package through 2022. In recent months, however, the Belgian brewer has experienced confusion regarding the precise terms of where it can serve and sell beer in Qatar.
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In September, it was reported that alcoholic drink would be sold within stadium boundaries before and after games. Only alcohol-free Bud Zero would be sold in stadium concourses for spectators to consume in branded cups at their seats.
Last weekend, AB InBev was taken aback by Qatari organizers’ insistence that beer stands be relocated to less conspicuous spots within the perimeter.
Additionally, Budweiser was to be distributed only in the nights at the official FIFA fan zone in Al Bidda Park, where up to 40,000 people might gather to watch games on huge screens. The price of a beer was confirmed to be $14.
Ab InBev did not reply to a request for comment immediately.
For the event, the company will be based at an expensive hotel in the West Bay neighborhood of Doha, complete with its own branded nightclub.