After long deliberation and indecision, Qatari officials have decided that the only drinks that will be on sale to fans at stadiums during the month-long World Cup will be nonalcoholic.
The decision, which came two days before the tournament’s opening match, was confirmed on Friday by FIFA, the tournament’s owner.
“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,” FIFA announced. The decision, it said, would mean “removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters.”
The ban on beer is the latest and most dramatic change to an evolving alcohol plan that has for months increased tensions between FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, and Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation where the sale of alcohol is tightly controlled.
But it also will complicate FIFA’s $75 million sponsorship agreement with Budweiser; infuriate fans already chafing at restrictions, costs and inconveniences around the event; and once again leave organizers scrambling to adjust — this time only 48 hours before the tournament’s opening game on Sunday.
The organization’s official fan guide notes that “ticket holders will have access to Budweiser, Budweiser Zero, and Coca-Cola products within the stadium perimeter” for at least three hours before games, and for one hour afterward. The ban on alcohol consumption appeared to apply only to fans at stadiums. Beer and other drinks, including an official FIFA Champagne and an array of sommelier-selected wines, will still be available in luxury suites reserved for FIFA officials and other wealthy guests.
The decision to ban beer comes a week after an earlier edict that dozens of red beer tents bearing Budweiser’s branding be moved to more discrete locations at the World Cup’s eight stadiums, away from where most of the crowds attending games would pass.