FIFA has shocked football fans worldwide with a sudden U-turn on alcohol sales at the World Cup in Qatar, just two days before the event is due to kick off. The football governing body has now banned the sale of alcoholic beverages inside and around the stadiums, sparking concern among fans who had previously been promised the opposite. Instead, fans will be able to purchase beer at the FIFA Fan Festival, licensed venues, and other fan destinations.
Critics have come forward to question the ban, citing a potential breach of the $75m sponsorship agreement between FIFA and Budweiser, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Fans and analysts alike have expressed concern that the decision, made at the eleventh hour, will cause confusion among supporters who had already planned to purchase alcohol during matches.
Qatar’s False Promises
This decision has come as a particular surprise as the tournament organisers had previously confirmed that alcohol would be sold at the games and in fan zones. Qatar, a Muslim nation with strict laws around the sale and consumption of alcohol, had pledged to make alcohol available at matches but only in hospitality boxes and some fan zones after 7pm, with a 500ml Budweiser costing nearly £12.
Despite the ban, Budweiser’s non-alcoholic beer, Bud Zero, will still be available in all World Cup stadiums. The Qatari hosts have reportedly insisted on the alcohol ban to ensure that everyone inside the stadiums feels comfortable and to prevent fans from arriving intoxicated. The Qatari government is keen to ensure that only those who can afford to pay have access to alcohol, with high prices designed to limit consumption.
Disappointed Fans, Poor Ticket Sales & Other Problems
According to organisers, the World Cup in Qatar is likely to see a large number of supporters from Gulf and Asian countries where drinking alcohol is not a common practice. While there are some alcohol-free fan zones in Doha, it may be difficult to avoid people who have been drinking in the stadium. The decision to ban beer sales in World Cup stadiums is likely to disappoint Western football fans who are accustomed to enjoying a cold beer while watching the game.
Critics argue that the ban will impact the festive atmosphere of the tournament and could lead to reduced ticket sales. Some football fans have expressed concern that the ban may result in a rise in alcohol-related incidents outside the stadiums, as fans seek alternative venues to enjoy beer. The sudden nature of the decision has raised doubts about Qatar’s ability to deliver on its other promises, given its previous assurances to FIFA and football fans over the years.
Some observers suggest that the decision to ban beer could prompt further changes to the tournament, especially if it is met with significant resistance from fans and sponsors. Others fear that it could tarnish Qatar’s reputation, especially in light of criticisms over the country’s labour practices and human rights record.
Just One of Several Controversies
The Football Supporters’ Association has voiced frustration with the decision, questioning Qatar’s trustworthiness on other promises. They argue that the last-minute U-turn and lack of communication from the organising committee towards supporters is a broader problem. They believe that if Qatar can change their minds on beer sales with no explanation, it raises concerns about fulfilling other promises related to accommodation, transport, or cultural issues.
The decision to ban beer at World Cup stadiums is just one of several controversies surrounding the upcoming tournament in Qatar. Despite the country’s efforts to build air-conditioned stadiums to mitigate the extreme heat, concerns remain about the health risks of playing football in the Qatari summer. In addition, human rights groups have criticised the treatment of migrant workers involved in the construction of World Cup infrastructure, including reports of forced labour and poor living conditions.
FIFA has pledged to ensure that human rights are respected during the tournament and to use the World Cup as a platform for positive social change. However, some remain sceptical of FIFA’s commitment to these promises. The ban on beer sales at the stadiums has been met with mixed reactions, with some criticising it as a bow to conservative cultural norms and others welcoming it as a step towards a more family-friendly atmosphere. As the tournament approaches, all eyes will be on Qatar to see how it handles the challenges and controversies that arise.