The sale of alcohol at all the eight stadiums used for soccer’s World Cup tournament in Qatar has been banned, the sport’s international governing body FIFA said on Friday, just two days before the games begin. The organization said in a statement that the decision to ban alcohol sales came “following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA.”
The last-minute change in plans will see alcoholic drinks banned from the “FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters.”
Non-alcoholic beer will still be available for fans at the 64 matches.
Budweiser’s parent company, AB InBev, pays tens of millions of dollars at each World Cup for exclusive rights to sell beer. The company’s partnership with FIFA started at the 1986 tournament.
As news of the ban broke on Friday, a post briefly appeared on Budweiser’s official Twitter account, reading: “Well, this is awkward.” The post was removed not long after.
When Qatar — a conservative Muslim nation where alcohol is generally illegal — launched its bid to host the World Cup, the country agreed to respect FIFA’s commercial partners, and again when signing contracts after winning the vote in 2010.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the host country was forced to change a law to allow alcohol sales in stadiums.
AB InBev’s deal with FIFA was renewed in 2011 — after Qatar was controversially picked as host — in a two-tournament package through 2022. However, the Belgium-based brewer has faced uncertainty in recent months on the exact details of where it can serve and sell beer in Qatar.
An agreement was announced in September for beer with alcohol to be sold within the stadium perimeters before and after games. Only alcohol-free Bud Zero would be sold in the stadium concourses for fans to drink in their seats in branded cups.
Last weekend, AB InBev was left surprised by a new policy insisted on by Qatari organizers to move beer stalls to less visible locations within the perimeter.
Budweiser was also to be sold in the evenings only at the official FIFA fan zone in downtown Al Bidda Park, where up to 40,000 fans can gather to watch games on giant screens. The price was confirmed as $14 for a beer.
Fifa stated that the “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 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™️.”
Ab InBev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.