Qatar, Host of World Cup, Wants Beer Stations Out

Courtesy of Andrew Milligan sumo (Flickr CC0)

Problems Arise Before Qatar World Cup

With the World Cup starting on Sunday, Qatar officials are ordering to move the beer stations that FIFA set up. There would be no discussion; the beer tents have to be moved, was the directive from the highest officials of the Qatari state. As the World Cup’s opening match approaches quickly, Qatari organizers have been rushing to move Budweiser-branded beer stations.

They have to move beer stations at eight stadiums in response to an unexpected request. Three people with knowledge of the belated change said had originated from within the nation’s royal family. The individuals talked on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to talk about private tournament preparation information. However, a statement from World Cup authorities appeared to confirm the modifications. Budweiser claimed to have first learned of the new strategy on Saturday.

The choice to relocate the beer kiosks appears to have been made out of fear that the heavy use of alcohol at stadiums during the month-long World Cup would disturb the local population and pose a potential security risk. But it also brought to light a topic that has dogged the preparations for the first World Cup in the Arab region and is anticipated to be divisive throughout the competition in Qatar, a devoutly Muslim nation where alcohol availability is strictly regulated.

Since FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, granted Qatar the hosting rights in December 2010, tournament organizers have struggled to strike a balance between their commitments to sell alcohol and accommodate Budweiser, one of FIFA’s biggest sponsors, and worries about upsetting or alienating a domestic audience that has objected to some of the cultural clashes involved in bringing a traditionally beer-soaked event to their country.

Courtesy of Andrew Milligan sumo (Flickr CC0)

No Beer In Qatar

It is not illegal to drink alcohol in Qatar. Tourists can only buy it at bars located in certain hotels.

After years of deliberation, FIFA and Qatari officials decided that the sale of alcohol would be allowed. But only within a security zone outside venues. Not within the stadium bowls themselves for the World Cup, where beer has been served freely for generations.

Even still, actions that prevent Budweiser’s capacity to advertise itself or market its products could ruin FIFA’s relationship with a significant ally. Not to mention the contractual arrangement between the brewer, the governing organization, and the Qatar World Cup organizers.

Budweiser Partnership

Every four years, Budweiser pays around $75 million to be associated with the World Cup.

The World Cup in Qatar, however, has created unexpected challenges and resulted in continuous disputes between Budweiser and FIFA over matters like deciding on sales locations in Qatar and arranging supply routes into the nation. In addition to having exclusive sales rights, Budweiser is required by FIFA’s deal to supply copious amounts of beer to FIFA’s partners and hospitality visitors. FIFA did not notify it of the changes until Saturday.  The firm is “working with FIFA to relocate the concession outlets to locations as directed,” according to a Budweiser spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman would only add that “our focus is on delivering the best possible consumer experience under the new circumstances,” declining to specify whether the business was receiving the rights to which it was contractually entitled.

FIFA’s Response

A representative for the World Cup organizing committee downplayed the modifications in a statement that they claimed to be issuing on behalf of both the competition and FIFA. The statement made no mention of beer and stated that “pouring times and the number of pouring destinations” remained the same at all eight stadiums, adding that “operational plans are being finalized,” which “has a direct impact on the location of certain fan areas.”

The World Cup is still set for Sunday. Beer may or may not be easily accessible to the fans is still up in the air.

Written by Gabriel Salgado

The New York Times: Qatar World Cup Faces New Edict: Hide the Beer

ESPN: World Cup organizers move beer sales to less prominent areas in venues

CBS: Qatar World Cup 2022: Organizers tell Budweiser to move beer tents at stadiums to less visible locations

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Andrew Milligan sumo Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Andrew Milligan sumo Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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