DOHA, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Alcoholic beer will not be sold at World Cup stadiums in Qatar, world soccer governing body FIFA said on Friday.
The announcement comes two days before the World Cup kicks off on Sunday, the first to be held in a conservative Muslim country with strict controls on alcohol, the consumption of which is banned in public.
“Following discussions between the host country authorities and FIFA, it has been decided to concentrate the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing the beer outlets at the stadium perimeters of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.” a FIFA spokesperson said in a statement.
The Football Supporters’ Association of England said the move raised concerns about Qatar’s ability to deliver on its promises to visiting supporters on “accommodation, transport or cultural matters”.
For years, Qatar tournament organizers have said alcohol will be widely available to tournament fans.
“Some fans like a beer during the game, and some don’t, but the real problem is the last-minute U-turn which speaks to a larger issue – 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 a World Cup, is preparing for the expected arrival of 1.2 million fans during the month-long tournament, more than a third of the city’s 3 million population. the Gulf Arab state.
Budweiser, a major sponsor of the World Cup, owned by brewer AB InBev, was to sell alcoholic beer exclusively within the ticketing perimeter surrounding each of the eight stadiums three hours before and one hour after each match.
“Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control,” AB InBev said in a statement.
Someone from the company had summarized the situation more concisely. “Well, that’s embarrassing…” read a post on Budweiser’s official Twitter account. The comment, later deleted, was released as a screenshot by the BBC.
Budweiser has been a sponsor of the World Cup since 1985, the year before the event was held in Mexico. For 2022, it launched its biggest campaign ever, with activity for Budweiser and other brands in more than 70 markets and 1.2 million bars, restaurants and outlets.
The World Cup usually boosts beer consumption and the Belgian maker of brands such as Stella Artois and Corona clearly wants to cash in on the millions of dollars it pays to be a sponsor.
However, he said those profits would come less from consumption at the venue, but from fans watching on TV.
“Tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support of our shared commitment to keep everyone happy during the FIFA World Cup,” the statement read.
LONG TERM NEGOTIATIONS
The stadium reversal comes after long-term negotiations between FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Budweiser and leaders of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which organizes the World Cup, said a source familiar with the negotiations told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
SC did not respond to Reuters request for comment and FIFA did not confirm Infantino’s involvement.
“Most of the fans come from the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol doesn’t play such a big role in the culture,” the source said.
“The idea was that, for many fans, the presence of alcohol would not create an enjoyable experience.”
Alcohol will continue to flow freely in the stadium’s VIP suites, which FIFA’s website says offer a selection of beers, champagne, sommelier-selected wines and premium spirits.
Budweiser will sell its non-alcoholic beer inside the stadium for $8.25 a pint, according to the statement.
Questions have swirled around what role alcohol will play at this year’s World Cup since Qatar was awarded the hosting rights in 2010. Although not a “dry” state “Like neighboring Saudi Arabia, drinking alcohol in public places is illegal in Qatar.
Visitors cannot bring alcohol into Qatar, even from the duty-free section of the airport, and most cannot buy alcohol from the country’s only liquor store. Alcohol is sold in bars in some hotels, where beer costs around $15 a pint.
Budweiser will still sell alcoholic beer at the main FIFA Fan Fest in central Doha, the source said, where it is on offer for around $14 a pint. Alcohol will also be sold in some other fan zones while others are alcohol-free.
“Fans can decide where they want to go without feeling uncomfortable. In stadiums, that wasn’t the case before,” the source said.
Reporting by Andrew Mills in Doha with contributions from Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Manasi Pathak in Doha; Written by Andrew Mills; Editing by Jan Harvey and Christian Radnedge
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