FIFA bans beer sales at Qatar's World Cup stadiums in a last-minute reversal
DOHA, Qatar — Two days before the world's biggest sporting event is set to begin, FIFA announced that beer sales will be banned at the eight World Cup stadiums in Qatar.
FIFA said in a statement that the decision had been made "following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA."
Sales are still permitted at fan events in licensed venues, as well as in-stadium luxury suites that also serve liquor, wine and custom World Cup 2022 champagne.
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. Public consumption of alcohol is only allowed in certain hotels and restaurants.
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.
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.
In September, Qatar and FIFA reached an agreement to allow beer sales inside the stadiums, but not at concession stands. The policy got more restrictive last week, moving the alcohol stands to even less visible spots on the stadiums' perimeters, meaning many fans would have to trek away from the action to make a purchase.
The decision to ban alcohol sales is worrying fans and commentators that FIFA doesn't have full control of its signature event, especially as the soccer organization forced another host country, Brazil, to change its national laws around stadium alcohol sales in 2014.
Budweiser has paid tens of millions of dollars for the right to be the official alcohol sponsor at World Cup events.
The company, a long-time partner with FIFA, is in the midst of negotiations to renew its deal for the next World Cup, according to the Associated Press.
"Well, this is awkward," Budweiser wrote in a tweet that was quickly deleted.
FIFA says Budweiser's non-alcoholic Bud Zero will still remain available at all World Cup stadiums.
Russell Lewis reported from Doha; Emily Olson reported from Washington, D.C.
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