Just two days before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar, FIFA confirmed that no alcohol will be sold in the eight stadiums hosting the tournament’s 64 matches.
“Following discussions between the host country authorities and FIFA, it has been decided to concentrate the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, and to remove beer outlets from the perimeter of the FIFA World Cup. 2022 Stadium in Qatar.” said the FIFA statement.
The Muslim country is considered very conservative and strictly regulates the sale and consumption of alcohol.
In September, Qatar had said it would allow ticketed fans to buy alcoholic beer at World Cup football matches starting three hours before kick-off and for an hour after the final whistle, but not during the match.
“There will be no impact on sales of Bud Zero, which will continue to be available in all Qatar World Cup stadiums,” FIFA said.
“The host country authorities and FIFA will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and enjoyable experience for all fans.”
Budweiser would sell beer within the ticket perimeter around each of the eight stadiums before and after each game.
The beer brand, which is one of FIFA’s partners, tweeted, “Well this is awkward,” though the social media post was quickly deleted.
Budweiser is owned by the world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.
“The tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support for our shared commitment to provide for everyone at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar,” the FIFA statement continued.
According to the New York Times, Budweiser is paying approximately $75 million for its sponsorship deal with FIFA.
“As partners of FIFA for more than three decades, we look forward to our activations of FIFA World Cup campaigns around the world to celebrate football with our consumers,” said an AB InBev spokesperson.
“Some of the planned stadium activations cannot proceed due to circumstances beyond our control.”
The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), the national interest group for football fans in England and Wales, has condemned the beer sale decision.
In a statement released Friday, the FSA said: “Some fans like a beer during the match, and some don’t, but the real problem is the last-minute turnaround that speaks to a wider problem – the total lack of communication and clarity from the organizing committee towards the supporters.
“If they can change their mind here in the blink of an eye, without explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will keep any other promises regarding accommodation, transport or cultural issues.”
Fans won’t be the only ones disappointed in the eleventh hour U-turn.
Ben Peppi, head of sports services at JMW Solicitors, says the move is “hugely damaging” to the FIFA brand.
“Brands will now be very careful around FIFA for future tournaments,” he told CNN Sport. “Because if they turn to a brand two days before the biggest global sporting event they’re hosting and say, ‘You can’t do this and you can’t do that’ and breach that contract, it doesn’t provide any security for any new brand.”
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar runs from November 20 to December 18.
CNN is still awaiting an official statement from Qatar’s Supreme Committee.