The World Football Federation stated that the decision was made after “discussions” with the World Cup hosts, an Islamic state that severely restricts alcohol consumption. It gave no reason for the unexpected decision, but media reports said Qatar’s ruling family intervened.
The decision may have an impact on FIFA’s deal with major sponsor AB InBev, while fan groups have expressed concern about other promises made by the hosts.
A FIFA statement said only that alcohol would be focused on fan zones, “removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters”. The move drew new criticism for Qatar, which was already under fire for its human-rights record.
“The real issue is the last minute U-turn which speaks to a wider problem — the total lack of communication and clarity from the organizing committee towards supporters,” said the Football Supporters Association in England.
“If they can change their minds on this at a moment’s notice, with no explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will fulfil other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues.”
Before the first game between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday, dozens of beer tents had already been set up at stadiums.
Qatar has spent tens of billions of dollars preparing for the World Cup and expects over one million fans to visit the country during the 29-day event.
However, its stringent cultural rules have drawn international attention. Naser Al-Khater, chief executive of the organizing committee, stated in September that the availability of beer was one of the “unfair” criticisms levelled at Qatar.
“I think that there is a misconception regarding the sale of alcohol in the stadiums,” he said at the time.
“We are working as any other World Cup where this is something typical and usual, and it is no different than any other World Cup.” He said it would be “business as usual”.
FIFA earns tens of millions of dollars per year from its sponsorship agreement with AB InBev, the maker of Budweiser, the only beer sold at official venues.
“The tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” added the FIFA statement. Neither the organizing committee nor the Qatar government responded immediately.
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