This Bud's Not for You: Qatar Bans Beer Sales at World Cup Stadiums

FIFA ban comes two days before start of one of world's biggest sporting events

Al Bayt Stadium in Doha, Qatar

Wang Dongzhen / Xinhua via Getty Images

Just two days from the opening match of the World Cup, FIFA and host nation Qatar banned the sale of beer at soccer stadiums home to one of the world's biggest sporting events, leaving major sponsor Budweiser stymied.

Qatar has made various changes in recent weeks to its original agreement to allow Budweiser sales at the stadiums, first removing beer from concession stands and then moving the stands to less visible areas. Now, Budweiser will be permitted only to sell nonalcoholic Budweiser Zero to most fans.

Key Takeaways

  • FIFA and Qatar banned beer sales throughout stadiums hosting the World Cup
  • Budweiser, which has a $75 million contract with FIFA, can only sell non-alcoholic beer
  • Budweiser and FIFA and negotiating a sponsorship agreement for 2026 worlds cup

Budweiser responded to the decision by tweeting “Well, this is awkward…” The tweet was deleted shortly thereafter.

The last-minute changes bring into question what effect this will have on negotiations between Budweiser and FIFA for the next World Cup and whether the company will renew its $75 million sponsorship contract.

The World Cup is a big event for Budweiser: a half-dozen bars near 2018’s event in Russia ran out of their entire supply of beer within the first few days. While FIFA has had to work around alcohol bans, Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation, had much stricter laws around alcohol. 

FIFA said in a press release that the decision would “ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans."

While sales of alcohol will still be permitted in the luxury suites, that probably won't be a huge source of revenue for Budweiser, as guests will also have the option to purchase sommelier-chosen wine or the official FIFA champagne, among other drinks.

The decision has also led many to question what control FIFA has in running the event and whether other last-minute changes will be made by Qatar, which has had issues with the freedom of the press and welcoming LGBTQ+ soccer fans.

“Some fans like a beer at the match, 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 towards supporters,” soccer fan group the Football Support Association said in a statement.

Budweiser suggested last week that it had been blindsided by the many changes from FIFA and Qatar and that it hadn't been included in any of the talks between the two.

Shares of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Budweiser's parent company, are down 12.6% in the last 12 months, compared with a 17.5% decline in the S&P 500 Index.

Article Sources
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  1. FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. "Fifa Statement."

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

  3. AP News. "Qatar bans sale of beer at World Cup stadiums in about-face."

  4. Vice. "Russians are shocked at how much beer World Cup fans are drinking."

  5. The Football Support Association. "FSA Statement: Qatar’s stadium beer ban."

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