Beer will no longer be sold within the perimeters of Qatar 2022 stadiums, after the host nation reversed its policy to relax its restrictions, with the only drinks on sale to fans at stadiums being non-alcoholic.
Fans will no longer be able to buy Budweiser, which would have been the only alcoholic beverage available to fans due to its sponsorship of Fifa.
It is understood restrictions have still been eased to allow Fifa sponsor Budweiser to sell its products outside World Cup match venues and fan zones – but fans will be told they cannot buy beer at any games during the tournament.
It is understood that beer will still be available in luxury suites reserved for Fifa officials and other wealthy guests.
The move is likely to increase tensions with sponsors and Fifa amid suggestions the World Cup’s governing body does not have as much control as previously claimed around official events. The organisation’s official fan guide notes “ticket holders will have access to Budweiser, Budweiser Zero, and Coca-Cola products within the stadium perimeter” for at least three hours before games, and for one hour afterward.
Controls on alcohol are strict in the country, but alcohol is available in Qatar. Sales are strictly controlled in the Muslim country, and most visitors, even before the World Cup, were permitted to buy beer and other alcoholic beverages only in upscale hotel bars and at unusually high prices.
Qatar will be left with an unhappy sponsor on its hands in Budweiser. The brewing company is reported to have paid Fifa $75 million (£62.86m) every four years to be one of its top-level partners.
The company tweeted from its main account on Friday: “Well, this is awkward”. The post was then deleted.
One source told Sky News: "These have been long-term discussions, and the overall feeling from everyone involved was that the stadiums need to be for everyone.
"This World Cup is different to others in that a larger number of fans are attending from across the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol doesn't play such a large role in the culture. The thinking was that, for many fans, the presence of alcohol would not create an enjoyable experience.
"The fan zones will be different in that some are clearly designated as alcohol-serving, while others are alcohol-free. Fans can decide where they want to go without feeling uncomfortable."
The Football Supporters’ Association criticised the lateness of the decision.
“Some fans like a beer at a game and some don’t, but the real issue is the last minute U-turn, which speaks to a wider problem – the total lack of communication and clarity from the organising committee towards supporters,” a spokesperson said.
Fifa released a statement confirming the removal of sales points of beer from the stadium perimeters “following discussions between the host country authorities”.
“There is no impact to the sale of Bud Zero, which will remain available at all Qatar’s World Cup stadiums,” the statement said. “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.