Keir Radnedge – AIPS Football Delegate
DOHA, November 18, 2022 – Qatar pulled a sponsorship rug out from beneath FIFA when it commanded, with two days to go to kickoff, that alcohol must not be sold sold to fans at the World Cup’s eight stadiums.
The world football federation and sponsor Budweiser put a diplomatic face on the host nation’s volte-face which had reportedly been ordered from the ruling Emir’s royal family.
Originally alcohol was due to be sold at certain stands around the stadia and in the fan zones. At the start of the week the stands were shifted to “discreet” plots and then came the downright ban.
Alcohol will still be available in the stadia hospitality areas and fan zones, including for Sunday’s Opening Match in which Qatar face Ecuador.
This has always been an issue in the muslim country in which alcohol has previously been available only in certain bars in hotels largely used only by foreign business and vacation visitors.
Aside from the immediate embarrassment for FIFA, a long-term question has been placed over the body’s credibility in its sponsor dealings.
Alexandra Wrage, once a member of a FIFA reform commission before quitting in frustration, told BBC TV World News: “This is a violation of the terms of their agreement and I question whether Qatar would have won the bid had this been their position.
“Perhaps it’s not as surprising as all that. I dont think FIFA had a choice. In the future I’d like to think this would help FIFA turn away from autocracies [as hosts] but we will see.
“This shows that FIFA has lost control of the situation. [Former president] Sepp Blatter was determined that this [hosting] would open new markets for them and I don’t think that’s what we’re seeing.
“First came the shift to winter which has been problematic and now this.”
Budweiser has paid around $65m for a four-year sponsorship and would appear to have firm grounds for a legal action over breach of contract.
A statement from owner AB InBev said: “Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA , a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA fan festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters.
“There is no impact to the sale of Bud Zero which will remain available at all Qatar’s World Cup stadiums.”
Initially Budweiser had posted a message on Twitter on Friday saying, “Well, this is awkward.” The post was later deleted.