Two days before the World Cup’s inauguration Qatar is banning all beer sales at and around its stadiums in a surprising announcement by FIFA.
“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, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters,” a statement from FIFA said.
Alcoholic beer will still be available at specifically permitted fan zones in Qatar after 6:30 p.m. Intoxicated fans will be sent to special zones to sober up.
Qatar initially relaxed restrictions to allow Budweiser to sell its products in stadiums and fan zones during the World Cup.
Budweiser’s parent company, AB InBev renewed its contract with FIFA through 2022 more than a decade ago after Qatar’s hosting bid was confirmed. The St. Louis brand has been the World Cup’s exclusive beer distributor since 1986.
Unlike other more conservative Muslim nations where alcohol is banned everywhere, in Qatar its sale and consumption are allowed in licensed hotels and restaurants and away from street view.
FIFA’s sudden policy change will impact the tournament’s $75 million sponsorship by Budweiser, and will add stress to organizers and fans already frustrated over restrictions unfamiliar to any other country that has hosted the historic tournament.