Qatar banned the sale of beer in World Cup stadiums just two days before the opening game.
The move was the latest sign of tension over hosting the event, which is not just a sports tournament but also a month-long party, in the conservative Muslim emirate where the sale of alcohol is strongly restricted.
It’s also a blow to World Cup beer sponsor Budweiser and raises questions about the control FIFA retains over its tournament.
Non-alcoholic beer will still be sold in all eight stadiums, while champagne, wine, whiskey and other spirits will still be served in the arenas’ luxury hospitality areas.
The vast majority of ticket holders do not have access to these areas, although they can drink alcoholic beer in the evening in what is called the FIFA Fan Festival, a designated party area which also features music and live activities.
Outside of tournament-run areas, Qatar imposes strict limits on the purchase and consumption of alcohol, although its sale has been permitted in hotel bars for years.
Budweiser’s Twitter account tweeted, “Well that’s embarrassing…” without giving details on Friday. The tweet was later deleted.
Ab InBev, Budweiser’s parent company, acknowledged in a statement that some of its plans “cannot proceed due to circumstances beyond our control.”
The company pays tens of millions of dollars at every World Cup for exclusive rights to sell beer and has already shipped the majority of its stock from Britain to Qatar in hopes of selling its product to millions of fans. .
As the World Cup approaches, rights groups have raised concerns about how the country will welcome millions of foreign fans, some of whom may violate Islamic laws criminalizing public drunkenness, sex outside marriage and homosexuality.
The Qatari government and its Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Friday wasn’t Qatar’s first comeback – but it was the most significant. Qatar also changed the date of the opening match just weeks before the start of the World Cup.
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