Beer will not be available at the eight World Cup stadiums, Fifa has said in a U-turn as sudden as a Garrincha pirouette. Two months before the tournament, which begins on Sunday with hosts Qatar taking on Ecuador, the CEO FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, had at a press conference in the bowels of the Lusail Stadium said beer would be available in the stadium perimeter. And now this.
“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 FIFA 22 stadium perimeters,” a statement attributed to a Fifa spokesperson was put out on the apex football’s body’s Twitter handle on Friday.
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Non-alcoholic beer will be available at the stadium, the statement said.
The Supreme Committee For Delivery and Legacy (SC), which is charge of staging the World Cup, did not comment on the development till Friday evening.
An official connected with organising the World Cup revealed that there had always been two equally strong and opposite views on whether or not the sale of alcoholic beverages should be allowed at the World Cup. “Nasser’s statement in September seemed to have put a lid on the issue,” said the official requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
It was since reported that beer would be available from three hours before kick-off and up to one hour after the game. Fans though would not be allowed to take the drink to the stands, like in other World Cups, as a mark of respect for other spectators.
Not only could the turnaround cause a lot of heartache among fans, for many of whom beer and football are not mutually exclusive, but it could also cost FIFA a lot of money as well. According to reports, FIFA gets $75 million per World Cup cycle from Ab InBev, the parent company of beer giants Budweiser, a FIFA partner.
Budweiser has been associated with mega sporting events for long. For over a year before the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, television commercials with the punchline, “for all you do, this Buds for you” would be aired in the USA. The red and white beer tents have been a regular feature at World Cup venues.
The prospect of “no beer World Cup” dominated discussions among English journalists at the England team base here on Thursday. It even made its way to the Aaron Ramsdale press conference.
“I think the fans will find some way of having a beer. Hopefully, with them not being able to drink, we can perform on the pitch to give them that sort of excitement and buzz. But we also have to respect the rules and continue to work so we will put pressure on ourselves to entertain from the football pitch,” said the England goalkeeper.
The issue of alcohol has been contentious ever since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010. Consumption of alcohol in public is prohibited here. Alcohol is available only at high-end hotels and is very expensive. There have been reports of 500ml beer costing $12 or more at the World Cup.