Budweiser beer drinkers in eight World Cup stadiums will be moved to a less visible location just days before the games start, Qatari organizers said on Monday.
It is the latest change in planning for the World Cup, which began more than a decade ago in the Muslim-majority emirate, where the sale of alcohol is strictly regulated.
When Qatar announced its historic hosting bid in 2009, it agreed to honor FIFA’s commercial partnerships, including the long-standing Budweiser deal that was renewed 11 years ago with brewer AB InBev for the 2022 tournament.
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World Cup organizers finally confirmed a beer sales policy in September that covers stadiums and official FIFA-authorized fan sites.
On Saturday, just eight days before the first games, the contract was modified to make the Budweiser-branded marquees less prominent in serving beer and alcohol inside the stadium’s confines.
“AB InBev was informed on November 12 and is working with FIFA to relocate the concession sites as instructed,” the Belgian company, which includes Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement on Monday. “We are working with FIFA to provide the best possible experience for fans.”
In Qatar, World Cup organizers said “operational plans are being finalised”.
“These plans include venue management teams that will improve coverage requirements for all competition venues,” Qatar’s Delivery and Legacy Committee said, referring to decorating sporting events with temporary branding and facilities.
“This will have a direct impact on the location of certain fan areas,” said organizers, who declined to say who made the decision.
Four years ago in Russia, a Budweiser beer kiosk had one of the sponsors’ most visible spots outside Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, which hosted the opening game and the final.
Red marquees for Budweiser and Coca-Cola – two of FIFA’s longest-running sponsors since the 1980s and 1970s – were placed next to a statue of Vladimir Lenin, which stood from fans approaching the entrance to the main stadium.
FIFA does not release the value of individual World Cup commercial deals, but second-tier sponsorships such as Budweiser are worth tens of millions of dollars.
Qatar’s compromise on beer sales was only announced in September and allowed beer to be served with alcohol before and after games in the stadium area. Only non-alcoholic Bud Zero can be served during games and in the stadium bowl.
Champagne, wines and spirits as well as beer are offered in the stadium’s restaurants and lounges to business guests. Fans staying at most of the top hotels and three of the cruise ships chartered as floating hotels for the tournament can also purchase a variety of alcoholic beverages.