- U-turn on selling beer could affect £63m Budweiser contract
- Partners feel ‘let down by Fifa’ according to another sponsor
Multiple sponsors have expressed concerns or issues with FIFA about their contracts at the Qatar World Cup, reports have emerged. It gives football’s governing body more painful hours after it was compelled to ban alcohol from stadiums by the Qatari authorities, a decision that muddled its $75m (£63m) contract with the brewer of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch InBev.
One representative of another big sponsor, speaking on condition of remaining unnamed, said that multiple partners had felt “let down by FiFa in lots of ways”. They also revealed there had been informal discussions about possible contractual violations and backing out on deliverables.
“Everyone has a gripe in some way or form,” they added. “There is a lot of ‘regrouping’ going [on] to understand what the options are contractually speaking.”
Earlier FIFA verified in a terse statement that alcohol would not be sold inside or around the perimeter of World Cup stadiums. It stated:
“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.”
However, it will now be watching restlessly its back at the possibility of legal action from Budweiser, unless some sort of compensation can be reached with Qatar. Shortly before the announcement, the US beer brand posted a tweet – since deleted – that said:
“Well, this is awkward…”
The sale of alcohol is completely controlled in Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation, but organizers had given guarantees it would be sold in match venues and fan zones – and would be fairly priced.
However, it has now decided that alcohol will be sold at matches only in hospitality boxes, where the cheapest suites are about £20,000 a match, and in some fan zones after 7 pm, where it will cost about £12 for 500ml of Budweiser.
According to the New York Times, staff members were informed the move had followed security advice but that the change had been initiated by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani – the brother of Qatar’s ruling emir and the royal most involved in the day-to-day planning of the tournament.
Reporters also realize further consideration was wanting to ensure the vast number of supporters from Gulf and Asian countries, where drinking alcohol is not part of the culture, felt comfortable.
Until recently organizers had always said that they would find a way to find a neutral ground between Qatar’s conservative culture and western fans’ tastes. That message was repeated most recently by Fatma al-Nuaimi, head of communications for the Supreme Committee, who said:
“When it comes to alcohol, hospitality is part of our culture, even if alcohol is not. So it will be in the places where the fans will gather, but not openly on the streets.”
The organization’s official fan guide also states that “ticket holders will have access to Budweiser, Budweiser Zero, and Coca-Cola products within the stadium perimeter” for at least three hours prior to games, and for one hour thereafter.
The news was welcomed with frustration by the Football Supporters’ Association, which raised doubt about whether the Qataris could now be expected to keep their other promises. A spokesperson stated:
“Some fans like a beer at a 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.”
“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.”