Why FIFA Is Changing The Way It Sells Beer For 2022's World Cup

In less than a week, FIFA's 22nd quadrennial football (aka soccer) tournament, the World Cup 2022, is scheduled to kick off in Qatar. With over 1.2 million international visitors anticipated to come for the occasion (via HRW), many questions have been looming over how the Arab country will manage the crowds — and, most importantly, how they will quench people's thirst.

As the first World Cup hosted in a Muslim country, The New York Times reports that access to alcohol during the 2022 tournament has been a hot topic since 2010, when the city was first chosen to host the event. While alcohol in Qatar isn't considered illegal, drinking it in public is (per Doha Guides). The football federation and Qatari officials went back and forth for years to finally decide on a plan that would both respect local customs and honor FIFA's commitment to Budweiser, one of its biggest sponsors. But, just days before the tournament's kick-off, organizers have been seen rolling up beer tents under orders rumored to stem from the royal family itself.

A slight change of plans

Although alcohol isn't banned in Qatar, it is tightly controlled. Doha Guides confirms that both residents and tourists can only access alcohol in designated places, including bars, clubs, and hotels. Alcohol isn't typically served at regular restaurants, however, and of-age Qatar residents can't purchase alcohol unless they obtain a license. Originally, The New York Times reported that FIFA and Qatari officials agreed to sell alcoholic beverages in permitted areas outside of the event stadiums. But it wasn't until Saturday, November 12, just eight days until the tournament, that Budweiser caught wind of any changes.

For nearly a month, the installation of the alcohol facilities has been underway at the pre-planned locations — that is until a change, rumored to come from Qatar's ruling emir's brother, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, filtered through to event staff. It is said that Qatari officials requested beer tents be moved away from other concession stands, including other sponsor-themed stalls and merchandise points. The decision is tied to security concerns for fear that the prominence of alcohol during the month-long event could upset locals. 

Officials told The New York Times that the beer tents have been moved to more obscure locations so they will not be removed altogether. Additionally, a representative from the World Cup organization confirmed that while the location of the beer tents has changed, the number located at each stadium remained the same. Overall, the situation seems to still be up in the air.