Qatar has banned the sale of alcohol anywhere near all eight World Cup stadiums in a sudden change of policy just 48 hours before the start of the tournament.
“Following discussion 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 sale points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters,” FIFA announced in a statement on Friday.
The sale of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Qatar, a strictly Muslim country in the Persian Gulf, and it’s only sold in high-end restaurants and hotels. The World Cup hosts had previously promised to relax its laws to allow small amounts of Budweiser to be sold in designated fan zones outside stadiums up to three hours before kick-offs.
“Where the FIFA World Cup stadiums are concerned, ticket holders will have access to Budweiser, Budweiser Zero, and Coca-Cola products within the stadium perimeter at the Brand Activation Areas three hours prior to kick-off when the gates open and one hour after the final whistle,” the official fan guide previously said. For Sunday’s opening match between Qatar and Ecuador, and the World Cup final, the guide assured fans they could drink in fan zones for up to four hours before the matches started.
Now, beer will only be sold at the official Fan Festival site in Al Bidda Park in the centre of Doha, around six miles from the nearest stadium.
Budweiser has a $75 million sponsorship with FIFA – an agreement that will now be complicated by Qatar’s u-turn. As the decision was announced, Budweiser wrote in a now-deleted tweet: “Well, this is awkward…”
The hosts are believed to have changed their minds due to concerns local fans will be made to feel uncomfortable surrounded by drunk foreign fans.