The highest levels of the Qatari state has ordered the beer tents near the stadiums to be moved.
The last minute move reveals the problems inherent in using a global sporting event for the interests of the alcohol industry, over the concerns of local people. But for FIFA, this conundrum is very familiar, having done the dirty work for Big Alcohol in Brazil in 2014.
Movendi International has been closely following the FIFA hypocrisy concerning its stance on health and other human rights, while pushing alcohol on people, and harming other values.
FIFA entered into a three-way, three-year partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Qatar titled “Healthy FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – Creating Legacy for Sport and Health” in 2019. The aim of the partnership was to make the FIFA World Cup healthier and safer and to promote a healthy lifestyle through various joint activities with the WHO.
However, FIFA’s conduct ahead of the 2022 World Cup has flouted the partnership and clearly shown its partiality to doing the dirty work for Big Alcohol.
AB InBev’s brand Budweiser is a FIFA World Cup sponsor and has been so for over 35 years now. The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be the tenth event sponsored by Budweiser. The sponsorship gives the beer brand certain benefits. This includes exclusive rights to sell beer at the event and marketing rights.
According to reports from 2010, Budweiser pumps between $10 million and $25 million every year into FIFA for sponsorship rights. The New York Times reports, Budweiser pays roughly $75 million every four years for the sponsorship deal.
In line with the principles of the partnership with the WHO and as per Qatar’s laws concerning alcohol, initially, the 2022 FIFA World Cup was planned to be alcohol-free. However, AB InBev was not happy with this idea and FIFA did their bidding pushing Qatari officials to allow alcohol sales during the games.
Essentially, FIFA lobbied Qatar to exempt the World Cup from its alcohol laws, and ignore Qatar’s culture where alcohol use is not the norm, so that Big Alcohol can maximize profits.
Eventually, Qatari officials gave in and this led to several options for alcohol sales during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
- Allow the “Arcadia Spectacular” – which features at the Glastonbury Festival – to run a Qatar 2022 version where alcohol will be sold from 10:00 AM to 5:00 AM the next day.
- Allow alcohol sales from 6:30 PM till 1:00AM in the Fan Festival in the city centre Al Bidda Park.
- Allow alcohol sales before and after games, once fans have passed through match day stadium security gates.
Now the third option for alcohol sales before and after games have come under the scrutiny of the highest levels of the Qatari state.
The beer tents must be moved
The World Cup games are set to start on November 20, 2022. According to anonymous sources cited in The New York Times, an order has come from Qatar’s royal family to move the Budweiser-branded beer tents from near the stadiums.
World Cup officials have confirmed the changes in a statement. Qatari organizers have been working to move the tents from the eight stadiums where the World Cup will take place.
As Movendi International has previously reported, Qatar’s alcohol laws do not allow for public alcohol use. Alcohol is available at designated hotel bars mostly for foreigners visiting the country. The laws follow the culture of Qatar. Being a majority Muslim country most people in Qatar live alcohol-free. The order to move the beer tents aims to reduce the negative impact that the presence of alcohol near stadiums can have on people.
But the New York Times reports that any limits to Budweiser branding or affecting sales of its products could “complicate” FIFA’s relationship with the beer giant and the contract between FIFA, Budweiser, and Qatar. So far, the AB InBev brand has not spoken about taking any action. A spokesperson for the beer brand had said that they are “working with FIFA to relocate the concession outlets to locations as directed.”
This is not the first time AB InBev and FIFA forced a country to serve alcohol, ignoring the views and laws of that country. In the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil officials decided to ban alcohol as part of measures to prevent violence in football and to improve public health in general. Nevertheless, in the end, FIFA and AB InBev got their way and alcohol was easily and widely available during the World Cup.
Moving the beer tents does not mean alcohol sales would stop at the World Cup 2022. FIFA continues to be hypocritical, disrespecting host country laws and using the WHO partnership to get a health halo, while allowing the sales of an addictive, cancer-causing product.