Just two days before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar, football’s world governing body FIFA has confirmed that no alcohol will be sold at the eight stadiums that will host the tournament’s 64 matches.
“Following discussions between the host country authorities and FIFA, it has been decided to concentrate the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing the beer outlets at the perimeter of the 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium in Qatar,” the FIFA statement said.
The Muslim country is considered very conservative and tightly regulates alcohol sales and consumption.
In September, Qatar said it would allow ticketed fans to buy alcoholic beer at World Cup soccer matches from three hours before kick-off and for one hour after. the final whistle, but not during the game.
“There is no impact on the sale of Bud Zero which will remain available at all Qatar World Cup stadiums,” the FIFA statement added.
“The host country authorities and FIFA will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and enjoyable experience for all fans.”
While some fans may be delighted that the stadiums are alcohol-free, others are confused and frustrated, including 21-year-old student Arnov Paul-Choudhury.
“It’s the World Cup, it’s football, you have to be able to drink around the stadium,” he told CNN Sport in Doha. “I just don’t think they’re doing the right things to attract fans.”
Budweiser was to sell beer within the ticketing perimeter surrounding each of the eight stadiums before and after each game.
The beer brand, which is one of FIFA’s partners, tweeted: “Well that’s embarrassing”, although the social media post was quickly deleted.
Budweiser is owned by the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev.
“Tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support of our shared commitment to meeting the needs of all during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” the FIFA statement continued.
Budweiser is paying around $75 million for its sponsorship deal with FIFA, according to The New York Times.
“As partners of FIFA for more than three decades, we look forward to our FIFA World Cup™ campaign activations around the world to celebrate football with our consumers,” a spokesperson said. from AB InBev.
“Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control.”
The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), the national representative body for football fans in England and Wales, condemned the decision over beer sales.
In a statement on Friday, the FSA said: “Some fans like a beer at the game, and some don’t, but the real problem is the last-minute U-turn which speaks to a wider issue – the lack total communication and clarity from the organizing committee to the supporters.
“While they can change their minds on this at any time, without explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will fulfill other promises regarding accommodation, transport or cultural matters.”
Fans won’t be the only ones disappointed with the eleventh-hour U-turn.
Ben Peppi, head of sports services at JMW Solicitors, said the move was “extremely damaging” to the FIFA brand.
“Brands will now be very careful around FIFA for future tournaments,” he told CNN Sport. “Because if two days before the biggest sporting event in the world that they’re doing, they go to a brand and say, ‘you can’t do this and you can’t do that’ and break that contract, that’s okay. not give any security to any brand new.
The Qatar 2022 World Cup runs from November 20 to December 18.
CNN is still awaiting an official statement from the Supreme Committee of Qatar.