The sale of alcoholic beverages is not permitted at Qatar World Cup stadium sites

DOHA, Nov 18 (Reuters) – FIFA said on Friday that alcoholic beer will not be sold at Qatar’s World Cup stadiums, in a last-minute reversal that has raised questions among some fans about the host nation’s ability to deliver on its promises. for the masses.

The announcement comes two days before the World Cup finals kick off on Sunday, the first to be held in a conservative Islamic country that imposes strict restrictions on alcoholic beverages, the consumption of which is prohibited in public places.

“Following discussions between the host country authorities and FIFA, a decision was taken to focus on the sale of alcoholic beverages at the FIFA Fan Fest, other fan destinations and licensed venues, and to remove beer sales points from the vicinity of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar stadium,” a FIFA spokesperson said in a statement. .

Football Supporters England said the decision raised concerns about Qatar’s ability to deliver on promises to visiting fans on “accommodation, transport or cultural issues”.

For years, country tournament organizers have said alcohol will be widely available to fans at the tournament.

“Some fans like to drink beer at a match, some don’t, but the real problem is the last-minute turnaround which speaks to a bigger problem – the complete lack of communication and clarity from the organizing committee towards the fans,” the association said in a statement on Twitter.

Qatar, the smallest country to host the World Cup, is preparing for the expected arrival of 1.2 million fans during the month-long tournament, more than a third of the Gulf state’s 3 million population.

Budweiser, a major sponsor of the World Cup, owned by brewer AB InBev, was to sell alcoholic beers exclusively within the ticket perimeter surrounding each of the eight stadiums three hours before and one hour after each match.

“Some of the planned stadium activities cannot go forward due to circumstances beyond our control,” AB InBev said in a statement.

Someone at the company summed up the situation in a richer way. “Well, this is embarrassing…” read a post on Budweiser’s official Twitter account. The comment, which was later deleted, was broadcast as a screenshot by the BBC.

Budweiser has been a World Cup sponsor since 1985, the year before the event was held in Mexico. For 2022, it launched its largest campaign ever, with Budweiser and other brands active in more than 70 markets and in 1.2 million bars, restaurants and retail outlets.

The World Cup usually boosts beer consumption, and Belgium-based brewers such as Stella Artois and Corona clearly want to cash in on the millions of dollars it pays to be a sponsor.

However, she has said that those profits will come less from consumption at the event site but from fans watching on TV.

“The tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support of our shared commitment to meeting everyone’s needs during the FIFA World Cup,” the statement read.

long-term negotiations

The change of venue follows long-running negotiations between FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Budweiser, and executives from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is organizing the World Cup, a source familiar with the negotiations told Reuters on condition that it be approved. Anonymity.

The Supreme Council did not respond to a Reuters request for comment, and FIFA has not confirmed Infantino’s involvement.

“More fans are attending from all over the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol doesn’t play a huge role in the culture,” said the source.

“The thinking was, for many fans, that the presence of alcohol wouldn’t create an enjoyable experience.”

Alcohol will continue to flow freely within the stadium’s VIP suites, which FIFA’s website advertises as offering a selection of sommelier-selected beers, champagnes, wines and fine spirits.

The statement said Budweiser will sell its non-alcoholic beer throughout the stadium for $8.25 per pint.

Questions have swirled about the role alcohol could play in this year’s World Cup since Qatar won the hosting rights in 2010. Although it is not a “dry” country like neighboring Saudi Arabia, drinking alcohol in public is illegal in Qatar. .

Visitors cannot bring alcohol into Qatar, even from the duty-free section of the airport, and most cannot buy alcohol at the country’s only liquor store. Alcohol is sold in bars in some hotels, with beer costing about $15 per pint.

The source said Budweiser will still sell the alcoholic beer at the main FIFA Fan Fest in central Doha, where it is on display for around $14 per pint. Some other fan areas will also be selling alcohol while others are alcohol-free.

“The fans can decide where they want to go without feeling uncomfortable. In stadiums, that wasn’t the case before,” said the source.

Reporting by Andrew Mills in Doha with contributions from Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Manasseh Pathak in Doha; Written by Andrew Mills; Editing by Jan Harvey and Christian Radnedge

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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