DOHA: In a reversal, FIFA announced on Friday (Nov 18) that no alcoholic beer will be sold to fans around any of the eight World Cup stadiums following “discussions” with hosts Qatar.
The announcement came two days before Sunday’s kick-off of the World Cup, the first to be held in a conservative Muslim country with strict controls on alcohol, the consumption of which is banned in public.
A FIFA statement said a decision was made to remove “sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters”.
Alcohol will still be sold at the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues.
It will be available in VIP suites in stadiums and in some hotel and restaurant bars.
The alcohol-free Bud Zero beer will remain available at all stadiums.
“Host country authorities and FIFA will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans,” said FIFA.
“The tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.”
Beer maker AB InBev owns Budweiser, a major World Cup sponsor with exclusive rights to sell beer at the tournament.
Budweiser reportedly pays US$75 million every four years to be the tournament’s official alcohol sponsor.
It was originally to sell alcoholic beer within the ticketed perimeter surrounding each of the eight stadiums three hours before and one hour after each game.
“The thinking was that, for many fans, the presence of alcohol would not create an enjoyable experience,” the source added.
The reversal of the policy comes after long-term negotiations between FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Budweiser, and executives from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which is organising the World Cup, the source said.
Neither Budweiser nor the SC responded to Reuters’ request for comment.
Questions have swirled around the role alcohol would play at this year’s World Cup since Qatar won hosting rights in 2010. While not a “dry” state like neighbouring Saudi Arabia, consuming alcohol in public places is illegal in Qatar.
Visitors cannot bring alcohol into Qatar, even from the airport’s duty-free section, and most cannot buy alcohol at the country’s only liquor store. Alcohol is sold in bars at some hotels, where beer costs around US$15 per half-litre.
“Fans can decide where they want to go without feeling uncomfortable. At stadiums, this was previously not the case,” the source said.
The Football Supporters’ Association, which represents fans from England and Wales, criticised the move, saying it was symptomatic of a “total lack of communication” with supporters from the organisers.
“If they can change their minds on this at a moment’s notice, with no explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will fulfil other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues,” it said in a statement.