Beer will not be sold to fans at the eight World Cup stadiums in Qatar, officials announced Friday, reversing course on the availability of alcohol two days before the start of play.
Despite strict controls on alcohol sales in Qatar, a Muslim-majority country, it was earlier announced that alcohol would be served “in select areas within stadiums,” BBC reported.
But that changed after this announcement from FIFA, world football governing body, on Friday: “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 perimeters.”
According to a National Public Radio report, “Qatar initially agreed to permit beer sales when it won a bid to host the games in 2010, and reconfirmed that commitment when it signed the contract.”
But as of Friday, those plans were scuttled.
Those in corporate areas of stadiums at the tournament, however, will still be able to purchase alcohol, BBC reported.
Bud Zero, World Cup sponsor Budweiser’s first-ever zero alcohol beer, will be available at all stadiums.
According to NPR, the sale of alcohol is strictly controlled in Qatar, which follows a conservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism. Public consumption of alcohol is only allowed in certain hotels and restaurants.
Fans were deeply divided on the announcement, with some decrying the organizing committee’s lack of communication.
The Football Supporters’ Association tweeted: “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.
“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.”
The decision was met with criticism on social media but also defense of the deeply held Muslim tenet of shunning alcohol.
A tweet by Barney Ronay, chief sports writer for The Guardian, said: “Don’t get the beer outrage at all. Qatar is an Islamic country, alcohol is prohibited, seems fine. Having a beer is not a human right.”
But others such as self-described social media influencer Tom Wells said “The World Cup is supposed to be a celebration and meeting of different cultures in a festival of football. How can this operate in such an intolerant society. Respecting cultures works both ways, this isn’t just about alcohol.”
Others on social media wrote that alcohol-free venues would result in safer experiences for fans. Others implored soccer fans to respect Qatar’s culture and Muslim tenets.
According to Bloomberg, Qatar has spent $300 billion preparing for kickoff. “Doha has been transformed, with the capital now dotted with new stadiums and hotels built to accommodate more than a million fans over the next month,” Bloomberg reported.
Qatar 2022 has been a controversial choice from the beginning. There have been concerns over Qatar’s record on policies that limit rights of women and LGBTQ people and its treatment of migrant laborers, according to Bloomberg.
The World Cup play gets underway Sunday with Qatar facing Ecuador.