Experts say FIFA on the hook with Bud over World Cup beer ban
Anheuser-Busch InBev is on solid legal ground to sue FIFA after the global soccer group abruptly revealed that beer sales will be banned at World Cup stadiums in Qatar — but some insiders predict the beer giant will restrain itself from taking legal action.
Qatar, the conservative Muslim country that’s hosting the World Cup, reversed its earlier decision to allow alcohol sales at specially designated areas at the eight venues which will play host to 64 matches over the next month. The abrupt announcement came just 48 hours before the games are set to begin.
Budweiser, the Anheuser-Bush subsidiary which paid $75 million to sponsor the bash, initially had a tongue-in-cheek reaction to news of the ban. The official Bud Twitter account remarked: “Well, this is awkward.”
The post was quickly deleted.
In a statement to The Post, Anheuser-Busch InBev declined to say what possible legal action it may take in the wake of FIFA’s decision, but its language on Friday appeared conciliatory.
“Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control,” an Anheuser-Busch InBev spokesperson told The Post. “As partners of FIFA for over three decades, we look forward to our activations of FIFA World Cup campaigns around the world to celebrate football with our consumers.”
Aron Solomon, the head of strategy and the chief legal analyst for Esquire Digital, predicted that Anheuser-Busch will be consulting with its attorneys on how to proceed.
“Someone owes Budweiser $75 million,” Solomon told The Post. “Selling beer at games had already been agreed upon. This is a clear contract breach, absolutely no doubt about it.”
“We know what Anheuser-Busch’s business is,” Solomon added. “And this last minute tour about by the organizers of the World Cup shows that FIFA is truly no longer in control of what can only be described now as a rogue event.”
Budweiser will still sell alcoholic beer at the main FIFA Fan Fest in central Doha, according to Reuters. The beer will be offered for about $14 per half-liter. Alcohol will also be sold in some other fan zones whereas others are alcohol-free.
“Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeter,” FIFA said in a statement.
Bud also can still freely sell its non-alcoholic lager, Bud Zero, which has a similar taste to the original beer.
Nevertheless, Budweiser has spared great expense to bring its product to the Middle East for the upcoming soccer tournament. Since there are no local breweries, Anheuser-Busch InBev had to ship crates of Budweiser by ocean freighter, according to Bloomberg News.
It then needed to store the products in specialized refrigerators that could shield the brew from the intense 90-degree heat in Qatar.
Despite the apparent breach of contract, Conrad Wiacek, the head of sport analysis at GlobalData, said Anheuser-Bush InBev may swallow its frustration and accept the verdict so as to not endanger its sponsorship of the 2026 World Cup, which will be played in the US, Canada, and Mexico.
“Qatar’s decision to ban all alcohol around the grounds for the upcoming FIFA World Cup just days before it begins presents an illusion that FIFA is not in control of its own tournament and risks alienating Budweiser — a key sponsor and long-term partner of the governing body,” Wiacek told CNN.
“However, Budweiser will be cautious to burn its bridges with the governing body, as the 2026 US tournament will be highly prized,” he said.
“Going elsewhere would open up opportunity for other alcohol brands in its wake.”
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