FIFA and its exclusive partner have agreed to move tents from their initial designated areas.
Qatar has requested that alcohol stalls prominently displayed around stadiums in the Gulf state be moved to less visible locations, FIFA World Cup sponsor Budweiser confirmed.
“AB InBev was informed on November 12 and are working with FIFA to relocate the concession outlets to locations as directed,” Budweiser owner AB InBev told Sky News.
“We are working with FIFA to bring the best possible experience to the fans.”
The decision to move the beer stations appeared to be rooted in concern that the prominent presence of alcohol at stadiums during the month-long World Cup would unsettle the local population and present a potential security problem.
Alcohol is not banned in Qatar, but most visitors are only able to purchase it at bars inside designated hotels.
FIFA and Qatari officials had struggled for years to devise a plan for the World Cup, where beer has flowed freely for generations, before finally deciding that the sale of alcoholic beverages would be permitted within a security perimeter outside venues but not inside the stadium bowls.
Still, moves that limit Budweiser’s branding or affect its ability to sell its products could complicate FIFA’s relationship with a powerful partner, not to mention the contractual relationship between the brewer, the governing body and Qatar’s World Cup organisers.
Budweiser pays roughly $75 million to associate itself with the World Cup every four years.
Budweiser’s contract with FIFA not only gives it sales exclusivity but also requires the company to provide vast quantities of beer for FIFA’s partners and hospitality guests.
In Qatar, it is said to be selling beer at an average price of $11 a piece.
In September, a FIFA statement sent to Doha News said World Cup ticket holders will have access to alcohol as beer will be sold strictly at FIFA Fan Festivals before kick-off and after the final whistle.
“FIFA has been working on the experience for local and international fans during the FIFA World Cup 2022, including catering for those who wish to enjoy an alcoholic drink while being respectful towards the local culture,” the statement read.
“Where the FIFA World Cup stadiums are concerned, ticket holders will have access to Budweiser, Budweiser Zero and Coca-Cola products within the stadium perimeter prior to kick-off and after the final whistle,” it added.
“Inside the stadium bowl ticket holders will have access to non-alcoholic Budweiser Zero and the full range of Coca-Cola products. At the FIFA Fan Festival, Budweiser will be available to purchase from 6.30pm, and Budweiser Zero and Coca-Cola products throughout the day”.
Qatar’s World Cup, the first to be hosted in a Muslim country, has raised questions on alcohol. The FIFA statement appears to quell those concerns, highlighting the consumption of alcohol will be tolerated but with close-knit authority.
Public drunkenness, or “a drunk and disorderly” offence, is not allowed in Qatar.
In an interview with Channel News Asia (CNA), Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani earlier this month answered a question on alcohol saying there are designated areas in the country for those hoping to drink.
“We would like them [fans] to come and to enjoy the football and enjoy our culture and experience. In the stadiums, alcohol will not be allowed,” he said.
In Qatar, both visitors and residents cannot carry alcohol into the country. However, only foreign residents can purchase liquor from the Qatar Distribution Company (QDC), the country’s only legal liquor store.
More than one million fans are expected to flock to the Gulf state for the World Cup between November and December, with some visiting the Middle East for the first time.