FIFA could lose £39.5m after Qatar World Cup beer U-turn

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FIFA could be set to fork out a whopping £39.5million as Budweiser seek a form of compensation after a late U-turn on alcohol policy in Qatar. Supporters are unable to buy beer at World Cup stadiums due to pressure from senior Qatari figures, which has come at a huge inconvenience for the drinks giant. 

Qatar is a broadly teetotal nation with alcohol only accessible at selected restaurants and bars. Tournament organisers had hinted that prices and accessibility would be relaxed during the four-week period, but the rules tightened up as kick-off closed in. 

Days before Qatar’s opening match with Ecuador, it emerged that a 500ml glass of Budweiser would set supporters back £11.60 and they would be limited to four each. Pressure from the Qatari royal family then stopped the sale of alcohol in and around stadiums, making designated fan parks the only place it would be available. 

Questions were raised as to how the decision would affect the multi-million dollar contract binding Budweiser and FIFA together, as the tournament’s main drinks sponsor. 

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A £63m deal was already in place between the two parties for Budweiser to be the official beer supplier for the 2022 World Cup. The late change has hit the drinks company hard, however, with stock piled high in a warehouse after tankers had already made the journey to the Middle East. 

Budweiser were seemingly unhappy once the news was announced, Tweeting: “Well, this is awkward…” before it was promptly deleted. They later claimed that the tournament winners would get the leftover stock but The Daily Mail have reported that a huge compensation package is also being sought. 

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A £94m deal is already in place for Budweiser to supply beer for the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Despite the larger pool of participants increasing the number of matches at which they can sell beer, Budweiser supposedly want £39.5m knocked off the price as a result of their inconvenience in Qatar.

Fans are still able to buy a non-alcoholic version of Budweiser in and around stadiums at the current World Cup – the first of its kind to see alcohol policed in such a way. Qatar are the first Middle-Eastern nation to host a World Cup and ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter believes that the decision was ‘a mistake’. 

Controversy and late decisions surrounding alcohol represent one of several teething problems at the tournament. Accommodation villages built to house fans still resembled building sites in the days before kick-off and there were reports of guests struggling to get hold of drinking water at one fan park near the Lusail Stadium. 

Furthermore, there have been questions raised over the legitimacy of attendances at matches after several figures were reported at a number greater than the official stadium capacity. That’s despite ticketing issues leaving grounds with thousands of empty seats at the start of many World Cup fixtures. 

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