The wealthy Gulf nation Qatar has made an unexpected U-turn and decided to ban beer sales inside or around the perimeter of stadiums just two days before the start of 2022 World Cup, confusing visitors and beer sponsors.
Just two days before the tournament’s first match in the Muslim nation, officials made the surprise announcement on November 18 that fans won’t be allowed to drink beer at the country’s eight World Cup stadiums — a reversal of a previously announced policy.
Budweiser, which has a US$75 million sponsorship agreement with Fifa, moments after the announcement wrote in a now deleted tweet: “Well, this is awkward…”
The sale of alcohol is strictly controlled in the Muslin nation, but earlier Qatar had announced that beer will be allowed, making an exception for the games, but it was abrupted reversed.
Public consumption of alcohol is illegal in Qatar — an offense that can bring up to six months in prison and a fine of more than US$800. Anyone smuggling alcohol into the country can face up to three years in prison.
The sale of alcohol at the stadiums has been a long-running negotiation between Qatar and FIFA, which is hosting the World Cup in the Middle East for the first time since the tournament kicked off in 1930.
There are however exceptions to the ban. Spectators in the stadiums’ high-end luxury suites will have easy access to booze. The cheapest suites will cost at least £20,000 a match. Outside of the stadiums, fans can still drink at special World Cup gathering spaces, or at specially licensed restaurants, bars, and hotels around the country.
Zero-alcohol beers such as Budweiser Zero will still be available at the games, so are soft drinks like Coca-Cola.