2 Days Prior To Start Of The Tournament, Qatar Bans Beer From Football World Cup Stadiums

FIFA, the governing body of soccer in the world, announced on Friday that Qatar is banning all beer sales at and around its World Cup stadiums in a dramatic U-turn just two days before the enormous soccer tournament gets underway.

“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 statement from FIFA said.

Although alcohol is not entirely prohibited for visitors in the conservative, gas-rich Muslim country, its sale and consumption are strictly regulated. Alcohol is typically only permitted in a small number of hotels and restaurants with special licenses and away from public view.

All eight of the nation’s World Cup stadiums will continue to sell Budweiser’s nonalcoholic beer, Bud Zero, according to the statement. After 6:30 p.m., alcoholic beer will still be offered at designated fan zones in Qatar, and inebriated fans will be directed to designated areas to sober up.

“Host country authorities and FIFA will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans,” the FIFA statement added. “The tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.”

The decision calls into question the tournament’s $75 million sponsorship by major brewer Budweiser and is likely to enrage many organizers and spectators who are already irritated by new restrictions for the 92-year-old event.

As the sole distributor of beer for the World Cup since 1986, Budweiser was initially given permission to sell its beverages inside the official venues of the Qatar World Cup, namely the stadiums and fan zones. As a result, Qatar initially loosened its alcohol regulations. This is what allowed AB InBev, the parent company of Budweiser, to extend its contract with FIFA through 2022 more than ten years ago, following the approval of Qatar’s hosting bid.

The country’s beer policy for the games was agreed upon by the organizers in September, but only last weekend did the highest levels of the government issue orders to move beer tents in stadiums farther away from spectators’ views.

The announcement on Friday raises serious concerns about management and planning issues in addition to the tensions that arise when a religiously conservative nation hosts a traditional beer-filled tournament.

“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,” said an AB InBev spokesperson in an emailed statement to the media.

After the news was released, Budweiser’s official Twitter account, which has been consistently posting World Cup promotional content, tweeted, “Well, this is awkward,” before quickly deleting the post.

The decision by FIFA to choose Qatar, a tiny Gulf nation with a population of 3 million and little soccer tradition, to host the 2022 World Cup was controversial from the moment it was announced in 2010.

The tournament’s hosting by Qatar, which is anticipated to draw 1.2 million tourists, has drawn attention to and criticism for a number of reasons.

These include issues with human rights, working conditions, visitor capacity, cultural and religious restrictions, and the fact that the World Cup is being held in winter for the first time ever due to the country’s extreme summer heat.

It has also come under fire for making last-minute adjustments, such as the request to postpone the tournament’s start by a few days that came only in August, the government’s request that beer stands be moved further away from stadiums just last week, and finally Friday’s decision to outright ban beer sales near stadiums, just over 48 hours before the first game starts on Sunday.

In a statement, the Football Supporters’ Association, a group that speaks for soccer supporters in England and Wales, criticized the decision to outlaw beer sales.

“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 organising committee towards supporters,” it said on its website.

“If they can change their minds on this at a moment’s notice, with no explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will fulfil other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues.”

When contacted by CNBC, the Qatari authorities were not immediately available for comment. Regarding its World Cup preparations, working conditions for employees, and human rights concerns, the government has consistently rejected criticism.

(Adapted from NYTimes.com)

Categories: Geopolitics, Regulations & Legal, Strategy, Uncategorized

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