With just days to go before kick-off, Qatar banned beer from its World Cup stadiums. What happens to all the beer?
Just before the menâ€™s football World Cup kicked off, Qatar banned beer from its stadiums. Budweiser, which has exclusive rights to sell beer at the tournament, tweeted that it was awkward and then deleted itâ€¦Â
So what happened to all that alcohol? And what does it reveal about the future of the tournament?Â
For many football fans around the world, the sport goes hand in hand with something else: booze.Â
[Clip: England fans chanting]
This yearâ€™s World Cup was supposed to be the same.
Despite Qatar being a conservative Muslim nation where the sale of alcohol is strictly controlled, it was supposed to be available in stadiums.
That was, until, it wasnâ€™t
â€śRight I want to bring you some breaking news now from the Fifa menâ€™s World Cup Fifa says that fans will not be allowed to buy alcohol around World Cup stadiums in Doha.â€ťÂBBC News
Just days before the tournament was due to start, the World Cup hosts made an unprecedented u-turn.Â
Soon afterwards Fifa confirmed the details in a somewhat frosty statementâ€¦
â€śHost country authorities and Fifa will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans. The tournament organisers appreciate AB InBevâ€™s understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022.â€ťFifa statement, read by an actor
That last line about AB InBevâ€™s response might not seem important, but it is.Â
AB InBev is a brewing company. In fact, itâ€™s the worldâ€™s largest brewer â€“ and it makes Budweiser, the beer which has sponsored the World Cup since the 1980s.Â
Budweiser has a 63 million pound sponsorship deal with Fifa. That deal gives the company sales exclusivityâ€¦ but also requires it to provide vast quantities of beer for the tournamentâ€¦ which is why Budweiser tweetedâ€¦
â€śWell, this is awkwardâ€¦â€ťBudweiser tweet, read by an actor
It then deleted it, but it is awkward. Budweiser was expecting to cater for millions of people in Qatar and it was reported that tanks filled with stock had already arrived in the country. So whatâ€™s going to happen to all the leftover beer?Â
By the time the news was announced many fans were on their way to the World Cup â€“ or were already there. The response was mixed.Â
â€śBeer isâ€¦ of course we need. Itâ€™s a necessity.â€ťNews clip
â€śIn that sense I might not be a true Belgian, but I donâ€™t mind a non-alcoholic beer.â€ťNews clip
â€śIt is a fact that we always celebrate with drink, right? Before or after. So I think it can make some of the difference, but it is not a critical fact.â€ťNews clip
There were signs that something like this was coming.Â
In mid-November the host nation asked Budweiser to make its advertising less prominent and relocate its beer tents. The company scrambled to make their red branding more discreet.
Days later â€“ discretion wasnâ€™t enough. Beer was banned.Â Â
The decision reportedly came from the countryâ€™s royal family. Organisers say itâ€™s about making sure that everyone feels comfortable, and crucially remains safe, during the matches. And that includes people who donâ€™t drink or donâ€™t want to be around alcohol.
You can still buy beers for nearly ÂŁ12 a pop in designated fan zones, if youâ€™re willing to stomach the queues, but not in stadiums.
Unless youâ€™ve splashed out on a hospitality package. Fans in the corporate areas of the stadiums â€“ where the cheapest suites cost around ÂŁ20,000 â€“ are able to enjoy alcohol in their luxury boxes.Â
Still, that wonâ€™t make up the loss for Budweiser.Â
So instead of selling the beerâ€¦ itâ€™s promised to send whatâ€™s leftover to the winning nation, and host a victory celebration on their behalf.Â
Itâ€™s making the most of the situation, using the hashtag â€śbring the bud homeâ€ť. But in the long term this story raises bigger questions for Fifa than it does for Budweiser.Â
Alcohol restrictions during football matches arenâ€™t rare. You canâ€™t buy alcohol in stadiums at all during matches in Scotland, and you canâ€™t drink in the stands in the English menâ€™s top divisions.Â
Itâ€™s associated with violence and antisocial behaviour, and it can be really alienating for people who want to enjoy the match but donâ€™t feel comfortable around booze â€“ or feel threatened by the way some drunk fans behave.
[Clip: fans shouting and cheering with sounds of smashing in the background]
This has been a point of contention for Fifa before previous World Cups.Â
Back in 2012, Fifa pushed Brazil to ignore a national stadium alcohol ban, taking a hard line â€“ and saying that alcoholic drinks were a non-negotiable part of the World Cup.Â
The big difference between then and nowâ€¦ is that Fifa didnâ€™t get its own way this time.Â
And thatâ€™s important beyond who gets to drink what and where, because it makes it look like world footballâ€™s governing body is losing control of the tournament.Â
Budweiser is making the most of the publicity, but such a last minute u-turn could have broken the terms of the companyâ€™s sponsorship deal. It might leave Fifa facing hefty financial losses and having to renegotiate future contracts with the company for upcoming tournaments.Â
Hosting a beer-fuelled victory party in the winning nation will be a very visible reminder of that upended agreement for future corporate partners.
And it has left fans, and players, wondering what other promises could still be broken.
This episode was written and mixed by Claudia Williams.
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