Alcoholic beer will be banned at Qatar’s World Cup stadiums in an eleventh hour U-turn by organisers.
- Alcohol was to have been sold within stadiums at the Qatar World Cup
- Governing body FIFA had required Qatar to relax access to alcohol, which is illegal in most places in the country
- The Qatar World Cup kicks off in two days
Organisers are expected to make the announcement on Friday local time, two days before the kick-off of the Qatar World Cup — the first to be held by a Middle Eastern nation.
The move has been confirmed by FIFA.
In a statement, soccer’s governing body said: “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.”
Major World Cup sponsor Budweiser was to have sold beer within the ticketed perimeter of each of the eight stadiums three hours before, and one hour after, each game.
Shortly after news broke, Budweiser’s official account tweeted “Well, this is awkward …”. The tweet has since been deleted.
Neither Budweiser, nor organisers responded to Reuters’ request for comment.
A source who spoke ahead of the announcement on condition of anonymity told Reuters that “a larger number of fans are attending from across the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol doesn’t play such a large role in the culture”.
“The thinking was that, for many fans, the presence of alcohol would not create an enjoyable experience,” they added.
The World Cup requires Qatar to relax access to alcohol, make fun outlets for fans and comply with FIFA rules around tolerance and inclusion.
But human rights groups fear for how police will deal with foreign fans who violate Islamic laws which criminalise public drunkenness, sex outside of marriage and homosexuality.
The conservative country has strict rules around alcohol.
In Qatar, alcohol is only served in licensed hotel restaurants and bars, and it is illegal to consume it elsewhere. Non-Muslim residents who have a liquor licence may drink at home.
Typically public drunkenness in Qatar is punishable with hefty fines or even prison, but the country has promised to let up on these restrictions for the World Cup.
Qatar’s head of security operations said police would turn a blind eye to most offences — but not drunken brawls, or property damage.