The double standards in Qatar’s alcohol ban for FIFA World Cup

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FIFA World Cup 2022

Photo : AP

Alcohol is not being sold inside or around the perimeter of football world cup stadiums in Qatar. The announcement came two days before the 2022 FIFA World Cup was set to begin, prompting many brands to raise concerns with the organising committee. The abrupt u-turn however comes with caveats that will ensure alcohol-access to a select few and manage to safeguard the interests of sponsor company AB InBev – which owns major beer producer Budweiser.

The major World Cup sponsor had been slated to sell alcoholic beer within the ticketed perimeter surrounding each of the eight stadiums three hours before and one hour after each game. Reports indicate that dozens of beer tents had already been set up at stadiums ahead of the first game when the announcement was made.

Who will have access to alcohol under the new rules?

Champagne, wine, whiskey and other alcohol is still expected to be served in the luxury hospitality areas of the stadiums. Beer (normally the only alcohol sold to regular ticket holders) will remain available in VIP suites in stadiums, at the main FIFA fan zone in Doha, some private fan zones and in about 35 hotel and restaurant bars.

The stadium suites are sold by world football’s governing body and come with a hefty price tag of $3,000 per ticket. For these fans, a plethora of alcoholic beverages including champagne, whiskey, vodka and even some sommelier-selected wines.

Non-alcoholic beer will still be sold at the 64 matches in the country.

Brands fume over change of rules

While the row over alcohol rages, many have voiced concern about the larger issue of Qatar reneging on contractually agreed promises at the last minute. The seeming lack of clarity and communication from the organising committee has also sparked concern about other assurances pertaining to accommodation, transport and more being met.

While FIFA did not give any reasons for the last minute change, reports suggest that multiple sponsors have flagged the situation, citing the potential for contract breaches and reneging on deliverables.

FIFA safeguards interests of sponsor, but may still face repercussions from Budweiser

“There is no impact on the sale of Bud Zero (it is non-alcoholic) which will remain available at all of Qatar’s World Cup stadiums…tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022” the organisers rushed to assure.

The organisation has a long-term sponsorship deal with $75 million with Budweiser and now faces the prospect of legal action – unless some sort of compensation can be agreed with Qatar. No official statement has been made thus far.

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