Qatar is a country that tightly regulates alcohol sales and usage. At the 11th hour the government reneged on the agreement they had with FIFA, who regulate the World Cup games, and banned alcohol sales entirely at the competition’s eight stadiums.
And it’s not like the conservative largely Muslim country had made things easy for Anheuser-Busch who had entered into a $75 million sponsorship deal with FIFA for exclusive rights to sell its beers at the games.
In a September agreement Qatar allowed ticketed fans to buy alcoholic beer three hours before kickoff and for one hour after the final whistle, but not during the match. So it’s not like having a beer at the World Cup games was ever going to be easy at the oil-rich peninsular Arab country.
Then, eight days before the first games, the agreement which had been 10 years in the making, was adjusted to make Budweiser-branded sales tents less visible for serving beer with alcohol within the stadium.
“AB InBev was informed on November 12 and are working with FIFA to relocate the concession outlets to locations as directed,” the Belgium-based company, which includes Anheuser-Busch, said on Monday in a statement. “We are working with FIFA to bring the best possible experience to the fans.”
And then, just two days before the World Cup was set to begin, Qatar banned beer sales at the stadiums entirely. Well not entirely, Budweiser’s Bud Zero, a 50 calorie brew with absolutely no buzz is still available but that’s it.
Anheuser-Busch initially responded to the beer ban with a now-deleted tweet that read ‘Well, this is awkward.”
Anheuser-Busch later came out with a more carefully worded statement…
“As partners of FIFA for over three decades, we look forward to our activations of FIFA World Cup campaigns around the world to celebrate football with our consumers. Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control.”
The late decision on alcohol sales in World Cup stadiums makes it clear that the host nation is running the show, not FIFA. According to the New York Post “Anheuser-Busch InBev is on solid legal ground to sue FIFA after the global soccer group abruptly revealed that beer sales would be banned at World Cup stadiums in Qatar — but some insiders predict the beer giant will restrain itself from taking legal action.”
So it’s Bud Zero or no beer at this year’s more sober World Cup. And if you were hoping for a buzz to elevate things at the 2022 games, forget it.