The message was sent from the highest levels in Qatari State: The beer tents have to be moved and there can be no discussion.
With the opening game of the World Cup only days away, Qatari organizers have been working hurriedly in recent days to relocate Budweiser-branded beer stations at eight stadiums after a sudden demand that three people with knowledge of the belated change said had come from inside the country’s royal family.
Because they weren’t authorized to discuss sensitive details of the tournament’s planning, these people spoke under the condition of anonymity. Officials from the World Cup confirmed the changes in a statement. Budweiser said it only learned of the new plan on Saturday — eight days before the tournament’s first game.
It appeared that the decision to relocate the beer stations was based on concerns about the potential security threat posed by the presence of alcohol in stadiums during the World Cup. However, it highlighted an issue that had plagued the Arab World’s buildup to the first World Cup. It is likely to be contentious throughout the tournament at Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation where alcohol access is strictly controlled.
Ever since FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, awarded the hosting rights to Qatar in December 2010, tournament organizers have grappled with balancing the obligations they signed up to fulfill — which include the sale of alcohol and providing promotional space for Budweiser, one of FIFA’s biggest sponsors — with concerns about upsetting, or alienating, a domestic constituency that has chafed at some of the culture clash inherent in bringing a traditionally beer-soaked event to a Muslim nation.
Qatar does not ban alcohol, however most tourists can only purchase it at designated bars within hotels. FIFA and Qatari officials struggled for many years to create a plan for the World Cup. Beer has been freely flowing for centuries. Eventually, they decided that alcohol sales would only be allowed within the security perimeter of venues, not inside the stadium bowls.
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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 Qatari World Cup organizers.
Budweiser spends approximately $75 million each year to be associated with the World Cup. However, a World Cup in Qatar has created unusual hurdles and caused ongoing tensions between Budweiser and FIFA over issues such as negotiating how to get goods into the country and approving sales points in Qatar.
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.
Budweiser stated that it wasn’t informed of FIFA’s changes until Saturday. The company is “working with FIFA to relocate the concession outlets to locations as directed,” In a statement, a Budweiser spokeswoman said that the company was receiving all rights under its contracts. According to the spokeswoman, the company is not receiving the rights it has under its contracts. She stated only that “our focus is on delivering the best possible consumer experience under the new circumstances.”
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A representative from the World Cup organizing committee issued a statement in which it stated that the statement was made on behalf of FIFA and the tournament. “Operational plans are being finalized,” It read as follows: “this has a direct impact on the location of certain fan areas.” The statement did not mention beer and was noted as such “pouring times and the number of pouring destinations” It remained the exact same at all eight stadiums.
This sudden shift in alcohol sales is consistent with the ongoing buildup to 2022 World Cup. Even though the first matches were approaching, work continues to build hotels and accommodation to accommodate the estimated one-million visitors. In August, for example, the date for the opening game — a milestone in place for years — was suddenly moved forward by a day on the eve of celebrations and a global advertising campaign to mark 100 days to go.
Since the beginning of last month, work had been ongoing to install the facilities for selling alcohol at the stadiums. But late last week, perhaps as late as Friday, a message filtered down that one of Qatar’s most senior royals had asked for the beer concessions to be moved to less obtrusive locations.
According to people who knew the plans, the staff were informed that the move was in accordance with security advice. But the belief that the change had originated with Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani — the brother of Qatar’s ruling emir and the royal most active in the day-to-day planning of the tournament — suggested it was nonnegotiable.
On Sunday, staff members wearing yellow safety vests could be seen rolling beer tents decorated with Budweiser’s logo to new locations.
Qatari officials are said to have asked that the tents be moved away from other concession points, including those belonging to McDonald’s, another longstanding FIFA partner, but also merchandise stalls and other sponsor-themed activities.
Qatari officials stated that beer would be available in Qatar during the World Cup, although it would not be sold in a way that violates local customs. An experiment to sell beer during the 2019 Club World Cup had mixed results.
Qatari officials created a fan zone in Doha for the event. Here, fans could drink freely for hours every day. The 45-minute journey took supporters about 45 minutes.
Organisers also designed similar locations for the World Cup’s month-long event.
Since its first sponsorship of the World Cup, Budweiser has been an integral part of the tournament’s success. This was one year prior to the 1986 Cup in Mexico. It has been a reliable source of revenue for the organization ever since, though it was among a slew of top FIFA partners to cautiously express concerns in 2014 amid a stream of allegations that members of FIFA’s leadership at the time had been bribed to select Qatar to host the 2022 tournament. “We are concerned about the situation and are monitoring developments,” The company stated at the time. “We expect FIFA to take all necessary steps to address the issue.”
FIFA’s leadership was eventually removed, but the World Cup remained with Qatar, and Budweiser planned accordingly. It stated that it would use the event to promote and sell its products. nonalcoholic beverages It is also available in certain locations.
But even this plan is not certain. One official involved in the process said FIFA officials agreed to move the beer tents to more obscure locations because they were concerned that if they did not they risked seeing Budweiser’s concessions being shut down entirely.