Just two days before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar, soccer’s world governing body FIFA has confirmed that no alcohol will be sold in the eight stadiums hosting the tournament’s 64 matches.
“Following discussions between the host country authorities and FIFA, it has been decided to focus on the sale of alcoholic beverages at FIFA Fan Festivals, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing beer sales points from the perimeter of the FIFA World Cup 2022 stadiums in Qatar.” A FIFA statement said.
The Muslim country is considered highly conservative and strictly regulates the sale and consumption of alcohol.
In September, Qatar said it would allow ticket-holding fans to buy alcoholic beer at World Cup soccer games three hours before kickoff and one hour after the final whistle, but not during the match.
“There is no impact on the sale of Bad Zero, which will be available at all World Cup stadiums in Qatar,” FIFA’s statement added.
“Host country authorities and FIFA will continue to ensure that stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and enjoyable experience for all fans.”
While some fans may be happy the stadiums are alcohol-free, others are confused and disappointed – including 21-year-old student Arnav Paul-Chowdhury.
“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 don’t think they’re doing the right things to attract fans.”
Budweiser was set to sell beer in ticketed perimeters around the eight stadiums before and after each game.
The beer brand, which is one of FIFA’s partners, tweeted, “Well, that’s awkward,” though the social media post was quickly deleted.
Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer.
“The tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support in our joint commitment to cater for all during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar,” the FIFA statement continued.
According to the New York Times, Budweiser paid about $75 million for the sponsorship deal with FIFA.
An AB InBev spokesperson said, “As a partner of FIFA for over three decades, we look forward to the activation of the FIFA World Cup™ campaign around the world to celebrate football with our customers.
“Some planned stadium activations may not go ahead 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 to sell the beer.
In a statement released on Friday, the FSA said: “Some fans like beer at matches and some don’t, but the real issue is the last-minute U-turn which speaks to a wider problem – the complete lack of it. Communication and clarity from the organizing committee to supporters.
“If they can change their minds on this without explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether other promises related to housing, transportation or cultural issues will be met.”
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 FIFA’s brand.
“Brands will be moving very carefully around FIFA now for future tournaments,” he told CNN Sport. “Because if two days before the biggest global sporting event they’ve ever hosted, they turn to a brand and say, ‘You can’t do this and you can’t do that’ and violate that contract, it won’t give any new brand any Security.”
The 2022 Qatar World Cup will run from November 20 to December 18.
CNN is still waiting for an official statement from Qatar’s Supreme Committee.