DOHA Nov 18 (Reuters) – Alcoholic beer will not be sold in Qatar’s World Cup stadiums, world soccer governing body FIFA said on Friday, a last-minute reversal that raised questions among some supporters about the country’s ability to deliver on promises to fans.
The announcement comes two days before Sunday’s World Cup kickoff, which will be held in a conservative Muslim country with strict restrictions on alcohol, which is banned in public.
“Following discussions between the host country authorities and FIFA, it has been decided to focus on the sale of alcoholic beverages at the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan venues and licensed venues, removing beer sales points from the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 stadium perimeters,” a FIFA spokesperson said in a statement. .
England’s Football Supporters’ Association said the decision raised concerns about Qatar’s ability to fulfill its promises to visiting fans with “accommodation, transport or cultural issues”.
For years, Qatar’s tournament organizers have said alcohol will be widely accessible to fans at the tournament.
“Some fans like to have beer at the match, some don’t, but the real issue is the last-minute U-turn, which speaks to a wider problem — a lack of communication and clarity from the organizing committee towards supporters,” the association said in a statement on Twitter.
Qatar, the smallest country to host the World Cup, is expecting 1.2 million fans during the month-long tournament, more than a third of the Gulf Arab state’s population of 3 million.
Budweiser, a major World Cup sponsor owned by beer maker AB InBev, will sell the alcoholic beer exclusively within the confines of the tickets around the eight stadiums three hours before and one hour after each game.
“Some planned stadium operations cannot go ahead due to circumstances beyond our control,” AB InBev said in a statement.
An insider at the company summed up the situation. “Well, this is disgusting…” read a post on Budweiser’s official Twitter account. The later deleted comment was broadcast as a screengrab by the BBC.
The event has been held in Mexico since 1985 with Budweiser as World Cup sponsor. In 2022, it launched its biggest campaign in more than 70 markets and 1.2 million bars, restaurants and retail outlets, with activations for Budweiser and other brands.
The World Cup typically boosts beer consumption and the Belgium-based maker of brands such as Stella Artois and Corona are looking to profit from the millions of dollars a sponsor can make.
However, it said that profit would come less from consumption at the venue but more from fans watching on television.
“The tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support for our collective commitment to deliver for all during the FIFA World Cup,” the statement said.
Long term negotiations
A source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters that the stadium was reversed after lengthy talks between FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Budweiser and executives from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which is organizing the World Cup. Anonymity.
The SC did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment and FIFA did not confirm Infantino’s involvement.
“A large number of fans attend from across the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol does not play a big role in the culture,” the source said.
“The thinking is that for many fans, the presence of alcohol does not make for an enjoyable experience.”
Alcohol will continue to flow freely inside the stadium VIP rooms, which FIFA’s website advertises as offering a selection of beers, champagne, sommelier-selected wines and premium spirits.
Budweiser will sell its non-alcoholic beer throughout the stadium complex for $8.25 per half liter, the statement said.
Ever since Qatar won the hosting rights in 2010, questions have been raised about alcohol’s role in this year’s World Cup. Although not as “dry” as neighboring Saudi Arabia, drinking alcohol in public is illegal in Qatar.
Visitors cannot bring alcohol into Qatar, and most cannot buy alcohol at the country’s only liquor store, even from the airport’s duty-free section. Alcohol is sold in some hotels, where beer costs about $15 for half a liter.
The source said Budweiser will still sell the lager at the main FIFA Fan Fest in central Doha, where half a liter is offered for around $14. Some other fan zones also sell alcohol, while others are alcohol-free.
“Fans can decide where to go without discomfort. In stadiums, this was not the case earlier,” the source said.
Reporting by Andrew Mills in Doha with contributions by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Manasi Pathak in Doha; Written by Andrew Mills; Editing by John Harvey and Christian Radnedge
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