DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The sale of all beer with alcohol was banned at all eight World Cup stadiums on Friday, just two days before the soccer tournament is due to kick off.
Non-alcoholic beer will continue to be sold at 64 matches in the country.
“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 perimeter of the stadium,” FIFA said. in the current situation.
Champagne, wine, whiskey and other alcoholic beverages are still expected to be served in the luxury hospitality areas of the stadiums. Outside of those venues, beer is usually the only alcohol sold to regular ticket holders.
Ab InBev, the parent company of World Cup beer sponsor Budweiser, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
AB InBev pays tens of millions of dollars each World Cup for exclusive rights to sell beer and has already shipped the majority of its stock from Britain to Qatar in hopes of selling its beer to millions of fans. The company’s partnership with FIFA began in the 1986 tournament and they are in negotiations to renew their deal for the next World Cup in North America.
While a sudden decision like this might seem extreme in the West, Qatar is an autocracy ruled by a hereditary emir, who has an absolute say in all government decisions.
Qatar, an energy-rich Gulf Arab country, follows an ultra-conservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism as does neighboring Saudi Arabia. However, the sale of alcoholic beverages has been allowed in hotel bars for years.
The Qatari government or the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Indeed, the tournament saw Qatar change the date of the opening match just weeks before the start of the World Cup.
When Qatar launched its bid to host the World Cup, the country agreed to FIFA requirements for the sale of alcohol in stadiums, and again when signing contracts after winning a vote in 2010.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the host country was forced to change a law allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages in stadiums.
Ronan Even, executive director of fan group Football Supporters Europe, described the decision to ban the sale of beer in stadiums in Qatar as “extremely worrying”.
“For many fans, whether they don’t drink alcohol or are used to drying stadium politics at home, these are details. But with 48 (hours) to go, it’s clear we’ve entered dangerous territory – where you’re no longer,” Even wrote on Twitter. Affirmations are “important”.
AB InBev’s deal with FIFA was renewed in 2011 – after Qatar was chosen as host – in a two-tournament package through 2022. However, the Belgium-based brewer has faced uncertainty in recent months over the exact details of where it can serve and sell its beer. in Qatar.
An agreement was announced in September to sell beer with alcohol inside the perimeter of the stadium before and after matches. Only the alcohol-free Bud Zero will be sold in the stadium arenas for fans to drink in their seats in branded mugs.
This past weekend, AB InBev was caught off guard by a new policy insisted by country regulators to move its beer kiosks to less visible locations within the perimeter.
The Budweiser sale was also scheduled for evenings only at the official FIFA Fan Zone in downtown Al Bidda Park, where up to 40,000 fans could gather to watch matches on giant screens. The price was confirmed as $14 a beer.
The company will be based in a luxury hotel in the West Bay area of Doha with its own nightclub for the tournament.
At the W Hotel in Doha, workers continued assembling a Budweiser-themed bar planned for the site. The familiar AB logo is plastered on the pillars and walls of the hotel, with one reading: “The World Belongs To You.”
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