In a U-turn, no alcoholic beer will be sold in Qatar’s World Cup stadiums, FIFA said in a statement Friday.
The announcement comes two days before kick-off for the World Cup on Sunday, the first to be held in a conservative Muslim country with strict controls on alcohol, the consumption of which is banned in public.
“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, and to remove beer outlets from the perimeters of the FIFA World Cup. 2022 stadium in Qatar.” a FIFA spokesperson said in the statement.
Budweiser, a major World Cup sponsor owned by beer maker AB InBev, would sell exclusive alcoholic beer within the perimeter of each of the eight ticketed stadiums three hours before and one hour after each game.
“Tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support for our shared commitment to looking after everyone during the FIFA World Cup,” the statement said.
The reversal of that policy comes after protracted negotiations between FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Budweiser and executives from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which hosts the World Cup, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters on condition of anonymity. .
“There is a greater number of fans coming from the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol is not as big a part of the culture,” said the source.
“The thinking was that for many fans, the presence of alcohol would not create an enjoyable experience.”
Non-alcoholic beer is sold
Champagne, wine, whiskey and other alcohol are still expected in the luxurious catering areas of the stadiums.
Budweiser will sell its non-alcoholic beer throughout the stadium area, the statement said.
Neither Budweiser nor the SC have responded to Reuters’ request for comment.
Since Qatar acquired guest rights in 2010, questions have been raised about the role alcohol would play at this year’s World Cup. While not a “dry” state like neighboring Saudi Arabia, consuming alcohol in public places is illegal in Qatar.
Visitors are not allowed to bring alcohol into Qatar, even from the duty-free section of the airport, and most cannot buy alcohol from the country’s only liquor store. In some hotels, alcohol is sold in bars, where beer costs about $15 per pint.
Budweiser will still sell alcoholic beer at the main FIFA Fan Fest in downtown Doha, the source said, where it will be offered for about $14 US per half pint. Alcohol will also be sold in some other fan zones, while others will be non-alcoholic.