QATAR: Just two days before the commencement of the World Cup football competition, Qatar banned beer sales near eight stadiums in an astounding policy reversal.
FIFA, the organisation that oversees football around the globe, stated that the choice was made after “discussions” with the nation hosting the World Cup, which forbids drinking.
It did not provide an explanation for the unexpected decision, but media sources indicated that Qatar’s royal family had intervened.
The fresh move by Qatar has gathered concern over the decision’s potential impact on FIFA’s sponsorship deal with major brewer AB InBev as well as for the host’s other promises to the supporters.
Numerous sponsors have voiced worries or problems with Fifa regarding their contracts for the World Cup in Qatar. It causes the governing body of football yet another trouble just hours after it was compelled to ban alcohol from stadiums by the Qatari government, a choice that affected its $75 million (£63 million) deal with Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Speaking under the condition of anonymity, a representative of another significant sponsor claimed that many partners felt “let down by Fifa in many ways.” Additionally, they stated that there had been informal discussions regarding possible contract breaches and deliverable defaults.
Earlier, Fifa confirmed in a brief statement that alcohol wouldn’t be sold inside or around World Cup stadiums, saying “beer sales points will be removed from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup stadium perimeters.”
A statement released by FIFA on Friday reads that non-alcoholic beer will continue to be sold at the eight stadiums, and Champagne, wine, whiskey, and other alcoholic beverages will continue to be offered in the opulent hospitality areas of the venues.
However, it will now be anxiously looking out for Budweiser’s prospective legal action, unless some sort of settlement can be reached with Qatar.
On Friday, shortly before the announcement was made, Budweiser’s Twitter account simply stated: “Well, this is awkward…” Later, the tweet was taken down.
In a statement, Budweiser’s parent company, AB InBev, acknowledged that some of its initiatives “cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control.”
The move to restrict alcohol sales at stadiums was called “extremely worrying” by Football Supporters Europe executive director Ronan Evain.
The Football Supporters Association in England criticised the decision to ban alcohol, saying that 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.”
Although Qatar, a conservative Muslim country that strictly prohibits the sale of alcohol, agreed to FIFA’s rules on alcohol sales in stadiums while putting up its bid to host the competition, the organisers also promised that it would be accessible in match venues and that fan zones would be affordably priced.
However, the specifics of how it would be done weren’t made public until September, or just 11 weeks before the first kickoff, which gives some indication of how difficult the discussions may have been.
But as of right now, it has been decided that alcohol will only be sold at games in hospitality boxes, where the least expensive suites cost up to £20,000 per game, and in some fan zones after 7 p.m., where it will cost close to £12 for 500 ml of Budweiser.
At the stadiums, dozens of beer tents had already been set up before the first game on Sunday. Over a million fans are expected to travel to Qatar for the 29-day World Cup, as per estimates made by Qatar, which has spent tens of billions of dollars preparing for the event.
Naser Al Khater, the chief executive of the organising committee, stated in September that one of the “unfair” comments Qatar had received related to the availability of beer. At the time, he stated, “I think there is a misconception regarding the sale of alcohol in the stadiums.”
“We are working as in any other World Cup, where this is something typical and usual, and it is no different than any other World Cup.” It would be “business as usual,” he continued.
FIFA receives tens of millions of dollars annually from its sponsorship deal with AB InBev, the company that produces Budweiser, the only beer served in official venues.