The sale of alcohol to fans at World Cup stadiums in Qatar has been banned with just two days to go until the tournament kicks off, as Steve Scott reports
FIFA has confirmed the sale of beer will be banned in Qatari stadiums during the 2022 World Cup.
The announcement comes after Qatari authorities pressed FIFA to ban all sales of long-time World Cup beer sponsor Budweiser at the tournament's eight venues.
A FIFA spokesperson 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 sale points of beer from Qatar's FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters."
Budweiser’s parent company, AB InBev, pays tens of millions of dollars at each World Cup for exclusive rights to sell beer. The company's partnership with FIFA started at the 1986 tournament.
The move comes as long-term England sponsor Lucozade has pulled all branding from its bottles for the World Cup.
Tom Bell, Head of Marketing at Lucozade Sport said: "We continue to support all England teams, who celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion. We will not have a brand presence at press conferences, training session or on pitches"
When Qatar launched its bid to host the World Cup, the country agreed to respect FIFA’s commercial partners, and again when signing contracts after winning the vote in 2010.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the host country was forced to change a law to allow alcohol sales in stadiums.
AB InBev’s deal with FIFA was renewed in 2011 - after Qatar was picked as host - in a two-tournament package through 2022. However, the Belgium-based brewer has faced uncertainty in recent months on the exact details of where it can serve and sell beer in Qatar.
In a now deleted Tweet, Budweiser stated "well, this is awkward" just moments before FIFA officially announced the ban on beer sales at stadiums.
An agreement was announced in September for beer with alcohol to be sold within the stadium perimeters before and after games.
'Beer's not everything' says Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey when asked if fans will still have a good time in Qatar.
Now, only alcohol-free Bud Zero will be sold in the stadium concourses for fans to drink in their seats in branded cups.
The only place that alcohol can be purchased in the stadium is in the hospitality boxes, which start at nearly £19,000 per game.
In the UK, alcohol can be consumed in the stadium at football games but not in the stands, or anywhere with a view of the pitch.
Last weekend, AB InBev was left surprised by a new policy insisted on by Qatari organisers to move beer stalls to less visible locations within the perimeter.
Budweiser was also to be sold in the evenings only at the official FIFA fan zone in downtown Al Bidda Park, where up to 40,000 fans can gather to watch games on giant screens. The price was confirmed as £11.75 for a beer.
An Ab InBev spokesperson said: "As partners of FIFA for over three decades, we look forward to our activations of FIFA World Cup™ campaigns around the world to celebrate football with our consumers. Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control."
The company will be based at an upscale hotel in the West Bay area of Doha with its own branded nightclub for the tournament.
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