FIFA could be set to fork out a whopping £39.5million as Budweiser seek a form of compensation after a late U-turn on alcohol policy in Qatar. Supporters are unable to buy beer at World Cup stadiums due to pressure from senior Qatari figures, which has come at a huge inconvenience for the drinks giant.
Qatar is a broadly teetotal nation with alcohol only accessible at selected restaurants and bars. Tournament organisers had hinted that prices and accessibility would be relaxed during the four-week period, but the rules tightened up as kick-off closed in.
Days before Qatar’s opening match with Ecuador, it emerged that a 500ml glass of Budweiser would set supporters back £11.60 and they would be limited to four each. Pressure from the Qatari royal family then stopped the sale of alcohol in and around stadiums, making designated fan parks the only place it would be available.
Questions were raised as to how the decision would affect the multi-million dollar contract binding Budweiser and FIFA together, as the tournament’s main drinks sponsor.
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Controversy and late decisions surrounding alcohol represent one of several teething problems at the tournament. Accommodation villages built to house fans still resembled building sites in the days before kick-off and there were reports of guests struggling to get hold of drinking water at one fan park near the Lusail Stadium.
Furthermore, there have been questions raised over the legitimacy of attendances at matches after several figures were reported at a number greater than the official stadium capacity. That’s despite ticketing issues leaving grounds with thousands of empty seats at the start of many World Cup fixtures.