The upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup is just two days away and with supporters en route to the host nation of Qatar, some not-so-great news was delivered Friday that plays a huge part in fan culture for the event.
FIFA, soccer's governing body, confirmed that no alcohol sales will occur at the eight venues that will hold the tournament's 64 matches.
“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 perimeter,” FIFA said via a statement.
Qatar is traditionally a very conservative country that greatly regulates alcohol sales and usage.
Friday's ruling backtracks from what the host country said it would permit just two months ago.
In September, Qatar said that it would permit alcohol sales at matches three hours before kickoff and one hour following the final whistle, but no drinks would be served during the contest.
“There is no impact to the sale of Bud Zero which will remain available at all Qatar’s World Cup stadiums,” added the FIFA statement.
“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.”
This has understandably left fans feeling frustrated as one of the key aspects of enjoying a matchday has been taken away.
21-year-old Arnov Paul-Choudhury was looking forward to enjoying some soccer and a cold beverage but is irritated with the new ruling. “It’s the World Cup, it’s football, you need to be able to drink around the stadium,” he said to CNN Sport in Doha. “I just don’t think they’re doing the right things to attract fans.”
Budweiser, one of the tournament's biggest sponsors, was preparing to sell its products within the ticket perimeter around each of the eight stadiums before and after each match. They even tweeted "well, this is awkward," but the social media post was quickly erased. Budweiser pays roughly $75 million for its sponsorship agreement with FIFA, according to CNN.
“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,” said an AB InBev (Budweiser's parent company) spokesperson.
“Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control.”
The Football Supporters Association, the national representative body for football fans in England and Wales expressed extreme discontent regarding the decision.
They released a statement saying, “Some fans like a beer at the match, and some don’t, but the real issue is the last minute U-turn which is speaks to a wider problem – the total lack of communications and clarity from the organizing committee towards the supporters.
“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 fulfill other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues.”
We are still awaiting to hear a statement from Qatar's Supreme Committee.