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World football governing body, FIFA, has declared that alcohol sales will be banned at the eight World Cup stadiums in Qatar, two days before the world’s biggest sporting event begins.
FIFA while revealing this in a statement, said the decision had been made “following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA.”
According to the statement, sales are still permitted at the FIFA Fan Festival and licensed venues.
FIFA said the decision would ensure “the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans.”
The sale of alcohol is strictly controlled in Qatar, an energy-rich Persian Gulf country that follows a conservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism. Alcohol is only allowed in certain hotels and restaurants, away from public view on the streets.
The sale of alcohol at the stadiums has been a long-running negotiation between Qatar and FIFA, which is hosting the World Cup in the Middle East for the first time since the tournament kicked off in 1930.
The decision to ban alcohol sales shows the soccer organisation doesn’t have full control of its signature event, especially as Budweiser has paid tens of millions of dollars for the right to be the official alcohol sponsor at World Cup events.
Budweiser, a major World Cup sponsor, owned by beer maker AB InBev, was to exclusively sell alcoholic beer within the ticketed perimeter surrounding each of the eight stadiums three hours before and one hour after each game.
“Tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the FIFA World Cup,” the statement said.
The reversal of that policy comes after long-term negotiations between FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Budweiser, and executives from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which is organising the World Cup, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Questions have swirled around the role alcohol would play at this year’s World Cup since Qatar won hosting rights in 2010. While not a “dry” state like neighbouring Saudi Arabia, consuming alcohol in public places is illegal in Qatar.
Visitors cannot bring alcohol into Qatar, even from the airport’s duty free section, and most cannot buy alcohol at the country’s only liquor store.
Alcohol is sold in bars at some hotels, where beer costs around $15 per half-litre.