Fans won’t be able to buy beer in or around World Cup stadiums after host nation Qatar imposed a last-minute ban, soccer governing body FIFA confirmed Friday. Sales of alcohol are tightly controlled in the Persian Gulf state, but officials had initially relaxed rules to allow Budweiser — which has a $75 million World Cup sponsorship deal — to sell beer at World Cup venues. Now, beer sales will be limited to the FIFA Fan Festival and non-stadium venues, with the exception of non-alcoholic Bud Zero.
Budweiser’s owners have spoken for the first time since FIFA banned beer sales outside World Cup stadiums in an 11th-hour decision apparently motivated by pressure from Qatar’s royal family.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewing giant which owns Bud and dozens of other beer brands, said it is still looking forward to ‘celebrating football with our consumers’ but some sales cannot go ahead due to ‘circumstances beyond our control’.
The short, terse statement was released hours after a cheeky tweet was posted to Budweiser’s Twitter account saying ‘well, this is awkward…’ before it was deleted.
InBev made no mention of possible legal action over the $75million deal it holds with FIFA, which gives it exclusive rights to sell beer at World Cup games. Doha could also be facing legal action, having signed contracts agreeing to ‘respect FIFA’s sponsors’.
Qatar is a typically teetotal nation where tourists can only buy or consume alcohol inside licenced hotels or restaurants. Exemptions for the World Cup would have meant fans were able to buy beers in special ‘fan zones’ or on stadium concourses.
But Qatar seems to have reneged on part of that deal, meaning beer can now only be sold only inside the ‘fan zones’. Pints will cost £12, only be available at certain times, and each person will be limited to four maximum to stop them getting drunk.
Anyone who does get drunk risks being taken away until they sober up.
Fans in Qatar reacted with a mix of anger and resignation at the ban, with 25-year-old England supporter Alex Todd describing it as ‘madness’. ‘Why is the World Cup here when basic pleasures are taken from you,’ he asked.
It is just the latest controversy to plague an already fraught World Cup – the first to be held in a Muslim nation – which has thrown football’s governing ethos and traditional trappings into conflict with the hosts’ conservative interpretation of Islam.
German fan Daniel Schwestka, 30, from Dusseldorf, said: ‘Football without beer is not football.’
He added: ‘I go to many matches even in the third German leagues, and you can have a beer. It is normal to drink beer at football and this is the World Cup.
‘When I arrived in Doha yesterday, I had two bottles of whiskey, my luggage and they took it from me at the airport.
‘I knew it was going be difficult to drink here. But how can they ban beer at the actual stadiums. It is ridiculous.’
Brian Davidson, the first fan in Qatar to drink an official World Cup beer said: ‘I’m devastated, it doesn’t make sense. What’s wrong with having a beer at a match?
The country expects more than one million visitors for the World Cup.
‘They have to accept our rules here,’ Salman said, in an excerpt of the interview.
‘(Homosexuality) is haram. You know what haram (forbidden) means?’ he said.
When asked why it was haram, Salman said: ‘I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.’
The interview was then immediately stopped by an accompanying official. Qatar’s World Cup organisers, when contacted by Reuters, declined to comment.
World football’s ruling body FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Organisers have repeatedly said everyone is welcome in Qatar during the World Cup.
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup but the small nation has come under intense pressure in recent years for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.
The country’s human rights record has led to calls for teams and officials to boycott the November 20 – December 18 tournament.
Earlier this month FIFA came under scrutiny after Sky News got hold of a letter that the governing body had circulated around the federations heading to Qatar.
‘Please, let’s now focus on the football!’ Infantino and FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura wrote to the 32 nations due to compete.
‘We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world.
‘But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.’
England and Wales – among a host of other nations – plan to wear rainbow armbands at the tournament with the words ‘One Love’ etched across them.
Qatar World Cup chief executive Nasser Al Khater last month said that gay supporters were welcome in the country but once again warned of the nation’s differing cultural norms.
‘Everyone will feel safe in Qatar,’ Al-Khater told Sky News.
‘We have always said that everyone is welcome here. What we ask for is respect for our culture.’
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