Qatar officials announced they are banning alcohol from World Cup stadiums and surrounding areas. The decision comes just two days before the World Cup’s opening match between hosts Qatar and Ecuador in Doha, and was confirmed by FIFA on Friday.
“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 perimeters,” a statement from FIFA said.
“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. The tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev’s [the brewer of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch InBev] understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.”FIFA
Initially, the conservative, gas-rich Muslim nation, had loosened its alcohol regulations to permit Budweiser, which has served as the World Cup’s exclusive beer distributor since 1986, to sell its brews at Qatar World Cup official venues, specifically the stadiums and fan zones. Budweiser, which currently has a $75 million sponsorship agreement with FIFA, initially posted on its official Twitter account: “Well, this is awkward…” Shortly after the news became official, the tweet was deleted.
The tournament is expected to bring in an estimated 1.2 million tourists and some already expressed criticism over a number of issues. These include human rights concerns, press freedom, street protests, the rights of LGBTQ+, and the fact that for the first time in its history, the World Cup is taking place in winter rather than summer due to the country’s extreme heat during its summer months, as CNBC reports.
The Football Supporters’ Association, a fan advocacy group based in Britain, criticized the decision on its website: “Some fans like a beer at a game and some don’t, but the real issue is the last minute U-turn which speaks to a wider problem — the total lack of communication and clarity from the organizing committee toward supporters. 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.”