Qatar World Cup officials have launched a stunning and abrupt U-turn, banning alcohol in its stadiums.
The tiny Gulf kingdom is set to outlaw the consumption of beer in grounds, owing to its strict Muslim laws which prohibit alcohol.
It had been promised before the tournament there would be areas where fans could drink, with hundreds of thousands expected to descend on the country for the tournament.
The tournament’s official beer sponsor was Budweiser, which now a faces lengthy row with the governing body Fifa over a £100m+ exclusive rights deal to provide alcohol in the eight stadiums.
While not having issued a statement yet, the global beer-making titan simply took to Twitter saying:
“Well, this is awkward.”
Owner of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) told City A.M.: “As partners of FIFA for over three decades, we look forward to our activations of FIFA World Cup™ campaigns around the world to celebrate football with our consumers.”
“Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control.”
The World Cup gets underway on Sunday with hosts Qatar playing Ecuador, while England play their first fixture on Monday.
There were set to be areas within stadiums where fans could purchase alcohol, in addition to fan zones outside the grounds, including in hotels.
The global footballing authority FIFA issued a statement on its website, which said: “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.”
“There is no impact to the sale of Bud Zero which will remain available at all Qatar’s World Cup stadiums.”
“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”.
With hundreds of millions set to watch the competition from around the world, it has been mired in controversy due to alleged human rights abuses in the country and deaths of migrant workers building stadiums.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also caused controversy when he appeared to ask LGBT fans to compromise their sexuality if travelling there, because same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar.
More to follow