19 Nov 2022
DOHA, Qatar — Alcoholic beer will not be sold in and around World Cup stadiums after all, according to a Friday announcement from organizers that represents a stunning reversal two days before the tournament.
Qatari authorities appear to have overruled FIFA, soccer’s global governing body and owner of the World Cup; and Budweiser, a longtime FIFA sponsor.
For months, FIFA, Budweiser and Qatar, the 2022 World Cup’s controversial host nation, seemed to have found a middle-ground agreement that alcoholic beer would be sold within stadium compounds, around the perimeter of the arenas, but not in concourses. The agreement mollified FIFA, which has allowed beer at World Cups for decades; and Qatar, a majority-Muslim country where, as Qatari World Cup organizing committee CEO Nasser Al Khater has said, “alcohol is not part of our culture.”
Last week, however, Qatari government officials reportedly began to push back. They first demanded that outdoor beer tents be moved to less visible locations — a demand with which FIFA and organizers seemingly complied. The request, conveyed by the government-adjacent organizing committee, reportedly came from the Qatari royal family.
Then, with less than a week to go, Qatari officials pushed a step further. FIFA said in a statement that the decision to “remov[e] sales points of beer from … stadium perimeters” had been made “following discussion between host country authorities and FIFA.”
The ban could force FIFA to modify its lucrative contract with Budweiser. FIFA said that it “appreciate[d]” the “understanding and continuous support” from AB InBev, Budweiser’s parent company.
“Well, this is awkward…” Budweiser wrote in a since-deleted tweet as reports of the ban surfaced. An AB InBev spokesperson later acknowledged in a statement that "some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control."