In a move that is sure to send visiting crowds into a tizzy, FIFA has caved to pressure from Qatari officials and government, agreeing to remove all alcoholic drinks from the upcoming World Cup, only two days before it’s scheduled to begin on Nov. 20, 2022. This comes only days after FIFA had agreed to move all of the beer tents located on the World Cup grounds to “more inconspicuous” locations in an attempt to placate the government of Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation where the sale of alcohol is tightly regulated. It’s a move that both demonstrates the relative weakness of FIFA as an organization, and also throws into question one of the organization’s biggest sponsorships: a $75 million deal with Budweiser to sponsor the World Cup every four years. Now the only drinks that will be available within stadium grounds will apparently be nonalcoholic … unless fans are wealthy, in which case they’ll have access to booze within the stadium’s luxury suites, according to The New York Times. That kind of double standard shouldn’t piss anyone off, right?
This argument over beer has been going on for more than a decade at this point, ever since Qatar was chosen as the host of the 2022 World Cup back in 2010. Alcohol is indeed sold in certain instances in the country, but primarily to visitors, who can only drink within the confines of specific, regulated hotel bars, and are suitably gouged for the experience. The question of whether the beer would flow at the World Cup has always been in dispute, but many expected FIFA would be able to work out a suitable compromise. Instead, they’ve folded at the last minute, only two days before the first match is set to begin, infuriating observers and guests. The level of incompetence is frankly shocking, even to jaded fans who hate FIFA as an organization.
“Some fans like a beer at a game and some don’t, but the real issue is the last minute U-turn which speaks to a wider problem — the total lack of communication and clarity from the organizing committee toward supporters,” said The Football Supporters Association, a U.K.-based fan advocacy group, in a statement. “If they can change their minds on this at a moment’s notice, with no explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will fulfill other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues.”
Those issues include the basic safety of guests, as the repressive laws of Qatar could potentially make visiting unsafe for entire demographics of people, such as LGBTQ+ soccer fans. Ultimately, this could be a much bigger deal than just the availability of beer.
But as for that beer, Budweiser owner AB InBev didn’t exactly take the news well. In a since-deleted tweet, the company griped and called attention to the awkwardness of the situation. Regardless, it appears we’ll be looking at the first beer-free World Cup in recent memory, unless something again changes at the last minute.
FIFA also thanked Budweiser for its owner ABInbev for its understanding and continuous support. Bud’s response speaks for itself pic.twitter.com/5guvjnrC0Z
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) November 18, 2022