Qatar, FIFA backtrack on sale of alcohol during World Cup

The decision marks a last-minute reversal that raised questions among some supporters about the host country's ability to deliver on promises to fans.

  An English fan drinks beer before a World Cup match at a cafe in Moscow, Russia on July 3, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)
An English fan drinks beer before a World Cup match at a cafe in Moscow, Russia on July 3, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)

Alcoholic beer will not be sold at Qatar's World Cup stadiums, world soccer governing body FIFA said in a statement on Friday, a last-minute reversal that raised questions among some supporters about the host country's ability to deliver on promises to fans.

The announcement comes two days before Sunday's kickoff of the World Cup, the first to be held in a conservative Muslim country with strict controls on alcohol, the consumption of which is banned in public.

"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," a FIFA spokesperson said in the statement.

Fans angry after Qatar backtrack on alcohol promise

England's Football Supporters' Association said the decision raises concerns about Qatar's ability to fulfill its promises to visiting fans on "accommodation, transport or cultural issues."

For years, Qatar's tournament organizers have said that alcohol would be widely accessible to fans at the tournament.

"Some fans like a beer at the match, and some don't, but 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," the association said in a statement on Twitter.

Qatar, the smallest country to host a World Cup, is bracing for the expected arrival of 1.2 million fans during the month-long tournament, more than a third of the Gulf Arab state's three million population.

 Budweiser tents are pictured outside the stadium ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (credit: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED) Budweiser tents are pictured outside the stadium ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (credit: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED)

Budweiser left none the wiser

Budweiser, a major World Cup sponsor, owned by beer maker AB InBev, was to exclusively sell alcoholic beer within the ticketed perimeter surrounding each of the eight stadiums three hours before and one hour after each game.

"Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control," AB InBev said in a statement.

Budweiser has been a World Cup sponsor since 1985, the year before the event was held in Mexico. For 2022, it has launched its biggest-ever campaign, with activities for Budweiser and other brands in more than 70 markets and at 1.2 million bars, restaurants and retail outlets.