PTI, July 9, 2022, 09:49 IST
Doha: Alcoholic beer should be sold at World Cup stadiums in Qatar, but fans could be allowed to take only non-alcoholic drinks instead.
FIFA and Qatar organizers are still working on plans to serve any fans who want to drink at games when the tournament begins in November in the Muslim-majority country.
Hospitality packages offering ‘premium drinks’ at stadiums have been sold since February 2021, but a policy for most fans at the eight venues and longtime World Cup sponsor Budweiser has yet to be finalized less than five months before the tournament.
The preferred option is to serve beer with alcohol inside the stadium before and after games and allow fans to take non-alcoholic Budweiser Zero to their seats.
“We will confirm and formalize things in due course,” FIFA said in a statement on Friday.
FIFA said designs are “still under consideration” for possible fan branding of drinking vessels in areas that will be broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers.
The 2022 World Cup is the first in the tournament’s 92-year history to be held in a Muslim country with such strict social taboos around alcohol.
Questions about how Qatar would welcome fans wishing to drink alcohol have been raised since FIFA chose the host country in 2010.
The following year, FIFA renewed a sponsor contract until 2022 with Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch. This partnership began at the 1986 World Cup.
During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, pressure from FIFA led local lawmakers to pass a special bill exempting the tournament from the ban on selling alcohol in stadiums.
Qatari organizers were initially reluctant to allow alcohol to be served in stadiums, but promised a decade ago to “come up with a plan that welcomes everyone”. “FIFA World Cup fans will be able to enjoy Budweiser Zero and Budweiser during the tournament,” Anheuser-Busch said in a statement Friday.
Qatar has tested its alcohol policy when hosting football, including the 2019 Club World Cup – an event that brought together European champions Liverpool, South American champions Flamengo and the club Mexican from Monterrey.
At this tournament, a drinking area was created on the outskirts of Doha at a golf club selling beers for $6, much cheaper than those typically available in upmarket downtown hotels.
In 2019, a loophole in the plan saw fans taking hour-long journeys through rush hour traffic to games on buses with no restrooms.
The golf club site is expected to be considered again for the World Cup, scheduled for November 21-December 21. 18.
Organizers expect around 1.2 million visitors at the 32-team tournament.