Sports

Qatar is set to ban the sale of alcohol in FIFA world cup stadiums

A general view of Al Thumama stadium before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on November 14, 2022, in Doha, Qatar. | Photo Credit: FIFA via Getty Images

FIFA World Cup organizers will ban the sale of all alcoholic beer in the eight stadiums used for the soccer tournament, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press.

The decision comes just two days before the games start in Qatar and 12 years after the country first agreed to honor FIFA’s commercial partners.

Non-alcoholic beer will still be available for fans at 64 matches, the person said.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because organizers have not yet announced the decision.

Champagne, wine, whiskey, and other alcohol are still expected to be served in the hospitality areas of stadiums. Outside of those areas, beer is usually the only alcohol sold to regular ticket holders.

Ronan Evain, the executive director of fan group Football Supporters Europe, called the decision to ban the sale of beer in stadiums “very worrying”.

“For many fans, whether they don’t drink alcohol or are used to dry rules in the stadium at home, this is a detail. It won’t change their tournament,” Evain wrote on Twitter. “But there are 48 (hours) remaining, we’ve clearly entered dangerous territory — where assurances no longer matter.”

While a sudden decision like this may seem extreme to the West, Qatar is an autocracy run by a hereditary emir, who has full say in all government decisions.

Qatar, an energy-rich Gulf Arab country, follows the ultraconservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism like neighboring Saudi Arabia. However, the sale of alcohol has been permitted in hotel bars for many years.

Qatar’s government and its Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

So far, the tournament has seen Qatar change the date of the opening match just weeks before the start of the World Cup.

Budweiser’s parent company, AB InBev, pays tens of millions of dollars each World Cup for exclusive rights to sell the beer and has shipped much of its stock from Britain to Qatar in hopes of selling its product to millions of fans. The company’s partnership with FIFA dates back to the 1986 tournament and they are in negotiations to renew their deal for the next World Cup in North America.

When Qatar launched its bid to host the World Cup, the country agreed to FIFA requirements to sell alcohol in stadiums, and re-signed contracts after winning the 2010 vote.

At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the host country was forced to change a law to allow the sale of alcohol in stadiums.

AB InBev’s deal with FIFA was renewed in 2011 — after Qatar was chosen as host — in a two-tournament package until 2022. However, the Belgium-based brewer has faced uncertainty in recent months over exact details of where it can deliver and sell beer in Qatar.

An agreement was announced in September for alcoholic beer to be sold within the perimeters of the stadium before and after games. Only non-alcoholic Bud Zero will be sold in the stadium concourses for fans to drink in their seats in branded cups.

Last weekend, AB InBev was surprised by a new policy insisted on by Qatari organizers to move beer stalls to less visible locations inside the perimeter.

Budweiser will also be sold in the evening at the official FIFA fan zone in downtown Al Bidda Park, where up to 40,000 fans can gather to watch games on giant screens. The price was confirmed as $14 for a beer.

Ab InBev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company is based in an upscale hotel in Doha’s West Bay area with its own branded nightclub for the tournament.

Chandan Kumar

Author & Content Researcher for Entertainment & World Desk, reports on world cinema, web series and lifestyle. Like to explore trends in the film industry and build conversations about them. Also focused on discovering regional cinema and good storytelling above all! Official E-mail :- chandan.kumar06@brnews.co.in

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