FIFA announced Friday that alcohol will not be sold at World Cup stadiums in Qatar, reversing a previous agreement to sell Budweiser products to fans during games, two days before the tournament begins.
“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,” said the statement from world football’s governing body. The alcohol-free Bud Zero will still be sold in stadiums.
The BBC reports that people in the corporate areas of stadiums will be able to purchase alcohol.
While it is not a dry country, Qatar restricts alcohol sales, and consuming alcohol in public is illegal. The country previously eased its strict rules to accommodate beer sales during the men’s football World Cup.
An unnamed official who spoke to Sky News said the decision was made in part because many attendees are from countries where alcohol is not so prevalent. “The thinking was that, for many fans, the presence of alcohol would not create an enjoyable experience,” the official said.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the company which owns Budweiser, was locked into a $75 million contract with FIFA that gave it exclusive rights to sell beer during the tournament. In what appeared to be a reference to the ban, Budweiser, which is the event’s largest sponsor, earlier tweeted: “Well, this is awkward...,” but quickly removed the post.
In a statement to Semafor, a spokesperson for InBev said it looks “forward to our activations of FIFA World Cup campaigns around the world to celebrate football with our consumers. Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control.”
The World Cup starts on Sunday when Qatar play Ecuador.
The View From the U.K.
In a statement, the U.K.-based Football Supporters’ Association (FSB) said their biggest concern was the timing of the decision.
“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 [organizing] committee towards supporters,” the group wrote.
The last-minute pivot has led them to question what other changes may emerge in the days ahead.
“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 [fulfill] other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues,” the FSB said.