For many people, beer is one of the first things they associate with a soccer match and an integral part of the stadium experience. Prior to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the US beer company Budweiser was granted an exclusive license to sell its beer at stadiums in Qatar. However, just two days before the first match of the tournament, Qatari authorities decided to ban beer from all of the World Cup stadiums. Only Bud Zero, Budweiser’s alcohol-free beer, can be sold at the stadiums during the tournament. The only exceptions to this beer ban are designated VIP areas that cost thousands of dollars, and specific designated FIFA Fan Areas.
In the months leading up to the tournament, the host country Qatar and FIFA had agreed that alcoholic beer would be allowed at the stadiums. Qatar is a Muslim country with severe laws regarding alcohol. The intoxicating beverage is generally forbidden and can only be sold in limited areas like hotels. Despite its earlier agreement, Qatar changed course without explanation, moving to restrict the sale and consumption of alcohol during the World Cup.
The deal between Budweiser and FIFA had a value of US$75 million and allowed Budweiser to sell beer exclusively in the areas surrounding the stadiums. Prohibiting the sale of beer at the stadiums could be construed as a breach of contract and result in a lawsuit filed by the beer company.
Budweiser and FIFA began their sponsorship relations in 1986, when the World Cup took place in Mexico. In 2026, when the USA, Canada and Mexico will host the tournament, Budweiser will be the official beer supplier. Following Qatar’s decision Budweiser acknowledged the move via its official twitter page, tweeting “Well, this is awkward.” The company later deleted the tweet.
Prior to the ban, Budweiser shipped its beer to the Gulf state, creating a huge logistical problem once Qatar backed out of the deal. A few days after the ban, Budweiser announced that it would ship the unsold beer to the country that wins the World Cup.
This is not the first time the World Cup has been accompanied by a dispute over beer. The beer industry faced similar issues during the 2014 World Cup because the purchase of alcoholic drinks at stadiums used to be forbidden in Brazil. Under pressure from FIFA, the country passed a new law that allowed beer to be sold at the stadiums during the tournament. Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary at that time, said that alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA would not negotiate about it. It seems as though FIFA’s opinions have changed since then.