With just two days to go before the tournament kicks off, World Cup organizers in Qatar have announced that alcohol will not be sold at the eight stadiums which will be hosting matches.
It was previously decided that World Cup sponsor Budweiser would be able to sell beer to fans at stalls around the stadiums, as long as they were in less prominent areas.
On Friday, however, FIFA confirmed that alcohol would be restricted to corporate hospitality areas at the eight venues – meaning ordinary matchgoers will have to go without a tipple.
“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,” read a statement.
It added that non-alcoholic beer would remain available to fans, and that FIFA would “continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans.”
The sale of alcohol to football fans visiting the strictly Muslim nation has been among the talking points in the build-up to the World Cup, alongside issues such as Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and the LGBT community.
While football fans will still be able to find alcohol elsewhere in Qatar, such as fan zones and hotels, the late policy reversal regarding stadiums – which comes just days before Qatar opens the tournament against Ecuador on Sunday – is unlikely to go down well with some visitors.
The Football Supporters’ Association – which represents fans from World Cup participants England and Wales – released a statement claiming the late U-turn represented a “total lack of communication and clarity” from organizers.
According to Sky News, the stadium beer ban is said to have been imposed following pressure from the Qatari royal family.
Sponsor Budweiser indicated the move had left a bad taste in its mouth, with the company’s official Twitter account posting a message reading “Well, this is awkward…” before it was deleted.