Qatar bans sale of beer at World Cup stadiums | Football News

DOHA: Qatar banned the sale of beer at World Cup stadiums on Friday, a sudden U-turn on the deal it made to secure the soccer tournament – only two days before the opening game.
The move was the latest sign of the tension of hosting the event, which is not just a sports event but also a monthlong party, in the conservative Muslim emirate where sale of alcohol is heavily restricted. It’s also a significant blow to WC beer sponsor Budweiser and raised questions about how much control FIFA retains over its tournament. Beer will be served in the evenings in what is known as the FIFA Fan Festival.
‘Beer to be available at designated party area’
World Cup host Qatar’s belated decision to ban beer sales at stadiums is seen as a big U-turn as the nation had agreed to FIFA’s requirements of selling alcohol in stadiums while launching its bid to host the event.
However, the details were only released in September, just 11 weeks before the first kickoff, a suggestion of how fraught the negotiations may have been. Friday’s statement from FIFA said non-alcoholic beer will still be sold at the eight stadiums, while champagne, wine, whiskey and other alcohol will still be served in the luxury hospitality areas of the arenas.
But the vast majority of ticket holders don’t have access to those areas — though they will be able to drink alcoholic beer in the evenings in what is known as the FIFA Fan Festival, a designated party area that also offers live music and activities. Outside of the tournament-run areas, Qatar puts strict limits on the purchase and consumption of alcohol, though its sale has been permitted in hotel bars for years.
“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… stadium perimeters,” FIFA said in a statement.
Budweiser’s Twitter account tweeted: “Well, this is awkward…” without elaborating. The tweet was later deleted.
Ab InBev, the parent company of Budweiser, acknowledged in a statement that some of its plans “cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control.”
The company pays tens of millions of dollars at each World Cup for exclusive rights to sell beer and has already shipped the majority of its stock from Britain to Qatar in expectation of selling its product to millions of fans. While the actual sales at the tournament might not be a significant percentage of the massive company’s revenues, the World Cup nonetheless represents a major branding opportunity. The company’s partnership with FIFA started at the 1986 tournament.
Ronan Evain, the executive director of the fan group Football Supporters Europe, called the decision to ban beer sales at the stadiums in Qatar “extremely worrying”.
Friday’s was not Qatar’s first backtrack — but it was the most significant. Last weekend, AB InBev was left surprised by a new policy insisted on by Qatari organisers to move beer stalls to less visible locations within the stadium compounds. And Qatar also changed the date of the opening match only weeks before the World Cup began.

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