AB Inbev, the world’s largest alcohol company, has been sponsoring the Fifa World Cup since 1986, using the event to market the beer Budweiser. Before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, authorities decided not to allow the sale of alcohol in arenas – something that led to intense lobbying efforts.

Qatar has cultural and religious resistance to alcohol use. Under Islamic law, the consumption of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages is banned. Alcohol is not illegal in Qatar, but the country has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking in public. There are exceptions from this policy in certain hotels and restaurants that cater to foreign visitors. Still, alcohol is not part of the local culture or tradition, and a majority of the population live alcohol-free.

Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, said the governing body had failed to persuade the Qatar government to allow alcohol sales in stadiums, but that if anything the situation “has brought us even closer together” with Budweiser.

Actual beer sales at the tournament are just a tiny portion of what AB Inbev expects to get out of its World Cup sponsorship deal, which includes advertising; fan festivals; and promotions at pubs, restaurants, and retail outlets in some 70 countries. And Qatar is not an alcohol-free zone: Fans can drink it at set times in government-approved “fan zones” away from the game and in hotel bars. According to the New York Times, AB Inbev pays roughly USD 75 million to associate itself with the World Cup every four years.

When the World Cup was organized in Brazil 2014, Fifa required a change of national legislation passed in 2003, banning all alcohol sales at football matches in an attempt to prevent violence.

“Alcoholic drinks are part of the Fifa World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate,” said then Fifa General Secretary Jerome Valcke to journalists in Brazil during a visit in 2012.

Later the same year the Brazilian Senate passed a bill paving the way for alcohol to be sold in stadiums at the 2014 World Cup.

According to OpenSecrets, AB InBev spent USD 5,040,000 on lobbying, just in the US, during 2021. Using 47 registered lobbyists, the company lobbied for issues related to taxes, beverage industry, Labor, antitrust and Workplace, commodity, trade etc.