FIFA has performed a U-turn on its decision to sell beer at World Cup stadiums for the 2022 tournament in Qatar, with alcoholic beverages no longer available to fans at grounds.
With Qatar being a Muslim nation, the sale of alcohol is strictly controlled and limited to hotel bars and restaurants away from street view, but Budweiser were given the rights to provide beer for the World Cup.
Organisers of the 2022 World Cup had initially stated their desire to serve alcohol within “select areas” at stadiums, but that policy has now been reversed just two days before the start of the tournament.
A statement from FIFA confirmed that beer and other alcoholic drinks would still be available in fan zones, but supporters attending games at stadiums – except for those corporate areas – cannot purchase such beverages.
“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, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s Fifa World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters,” the statement read.
“There is no impact to the sale of Bud Zero which will remain available at all Qatar’s World Cup stadiums. Host country authorities and Fifa will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans.
“The tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022.”
A report from Sky News states that Qatar’s Al Thani royal family were leading figures in the decision to ban alcohol from stadiums, and fans will only be able to purchase beer in specific fan zones after 6.30pm.
The late U-turn has led to criticism from the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), who have hit out at a “lack of communication” from the organisers.
A statement on social media read: “Some fans like a beer at a game and some don’t, but the real issue is the last minute U-turn which speaks to a wider problem – the total lack of communication and clarity from the organising committee towards supporters,
“If they can change their minds on this at a moment’s notice, with no explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will fulfil other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues.”
The 2022 World Cup begins on Sunday at the Al Bayt Stadium, with hosts Qatar taking on Ecuador in their inaugural game in Group A.