World Cup Qatar 2022: The ban on beer, the anger of the fans and the scandal over a million-dollar FIFA contract

Posted 2022/11/19 38 0

DOHA, Qatar – The small but fabulously wealthy Gulf nation Qatar has spent 12 years preparing to host the Soccer World Cup, a marathon of planning and patience during which it has redesigned an entire nation by building stadiums and hotels, roads and sidewalks. , even a shiny new subway system.

However, it was not until Friday that it was finally decided what to do with beer sales during the tournamentand his decision – to the dismay of the approximately one million fans who will arrive in the next few days – was to prohibit its sale in the eight stadiums of the event.

The beer stalls at Khalifa Stadium before the ban
The beer stalls at Khalifa Stadium before the banMIGUEL MEDINA – AFP

The decision, announced by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, marked a sharp reversal of course for Qatar, and the latest high point in the current culture clash inherent in hosting the tournament in a small conservative monarchy. from the Middle East.

Ever since Qatar was surprisingly granted hosting rights to the World Cup more than a decade ago, local organizers and world soccer officials have insisted that beer – a fixture at sporting events around the world , but which is strictly controlled in Qatar – would be available to fans. However, two days before the first match of the event, that message changed.

The ban on the sale of beer surprised all fans
The ban on the sale of beer surprised all fansAFP agency

Instead, the Qatari authorities have decided that the only drinks that will be sold to fans at matches will be non-alcoholic.

“It’s a disaster; I didn’t expect that news. It’s terrible news. Beer is part of the atmosphere in the stadium.”

Diego Anbric, Mexican fan attending his first World Cup

The thousands of fans arriving for the World Cup learned the news only after their flights had landed in Doha. A group of seven Mexican fans, recently arrived in Qatar, were stunned on Friday to learn that they would not be allowed to drink inside the stadiums.

“It is a disaster; I didn’t expect that news,” said Diego Anbric, 29. He attends his first World Cup. “This is terrible news. It’s part of the atmosphere of the stadium, the beer.”

It’s unclear what prompted the ban so close to the tournament, but the sudden change is in line with the tournament’s ever-changing policy on alcohol, and its availability to fans attending matches. The plans have been repeatedly drawn up and then revised and redone, a possible sign that national politics or even the influence of the royal family was playing a role.

Consumption of beer inside stadiums sparked controversy and Qatar clamped down
Consumption of beer inside stadiums sparked controversy and Qatar clamped downSebastián Rodeiro – LA NACION

“Following discussions between the authorities of the host country and FIFA, the decision has been made to concentrate the sale of alcoholic beverages at the FIFA Fan Festival, in other fan destinations and in licensed venues”, stated FIFA. The decision, he said, will require “removing beer outlets from the perimeters of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup stadiums.”

The decision to ban the beer comes a week after an earlier edict under which dozens of red beer tents covered with the brand Budweisera longtime sponsor of the World Cup and official beer of the tournament, would have to be moved to more low-key locations in Qatar’s World Cup stadiums, away from where most of the crowds attending the matches would pass through. .

German fans drinking beer, a World Cup classic
German fans drinking beer, a World Cup classicReuters

Staff members, according to three people with direct knowledge of that earlier change, were told that the measure obeyed security advice. But the belief that the change had originated with Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani – the brother of Qatar’s ruling emir and the royal most active in daily tournament planning – suggested it was non-negotiable.

Now the beer won’t just be hidden: It won’t be available to fans at all.

The ban is the latest and most dramatic point of contention between FIFA and Qatar. But his latest twist will infuriate fans, cause organizers to scramble to adapt and complicate FIFA’s $75 million sponsorship deal with Budweiser.

The ban is the latest and most dramatic point of contention between FIFA and Qatar, which sought and won the right to host the World Cup as part of an ambitious effort to make itself known on the world stage. In recent weeks, Qatari government leaders, including the emir, have mounted an increasingly strident defense of their nation.

But his latest twist will infuriate fans, cause organizers to scramble to adapt and it will complicate FIFA’s $75 million sponsorship deal with Budweiser.

Budweiser has been a ubiquitous presence at the World Cup since it first signed on as a FIFA sponsor a year before the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and had once again planned to be a major presence in Qatar.

The surroundings of the Khalifa stadium, full of stalls selling Bud, a sponsor of FIFA
The surroundings of the Khalifa stadium, full of stalls selling Bud, a sponsor of FIFAMIGUEL MEDINA – AFP

On Friday he had already occupied the luxurious Hotel W, in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods of Doha, where he planned to welcome the guests and offer them live projections of the matches… and beer.

But it was powerless to stop Qatar’s ban on its productswhich also suggested that FIFA, which has faced years of heavy criticism for its decision to bring its soccer championship to the country, may no longer have full control of major decisions related to the event.

A decade ago, for example, the soccer body pressured Brazil, which was hosting the 2014 World Cup, to produce just the opposite result: leaning on the Brazilian government to change a law that would allow the sale of beer in stadiums. , a practice that had been prohibited in Brazil since 2003.

FIFA has a $75 million contract with FIFA
FIFA has a $75 million contract with FIFAFile, Archive

On the other hand, in Qatar, FIFA has bowed to the demands of the host country. That raised the possibility that other pledges that go against local laws and customs (including issues like press freedom, street protests and LGBTQ+ visitor rights) were not as strong as Qatar and FIFA have said.

The Football Supporters’ Association, a British-based supporters’ advocacy group, criticized the decision.

“Some fans like a beer at a game and some don’t, but the real problem is the last minute twist that speaks to a larger problem: the complete lack of communication and clarity from the organizing committee towards the fans,” said the group in a statement.

“If they can change their minds on this at any given time, without any explanation, fans will have understandable concerns about whether they will keep other promises related to accommodation, transportation or cultural issues.”

Budweiser advertisements in a Doha hotel bar
Budweiser advertisements in a Doha hotel barJon Gambrell – AP

The ban on alcohol consumption appears to apply only to fans attending matches. In the stadiums’ luxury suites, reserved for FIFA officials and other wealthy guests, beer and other beverages, including Official FIFA Champagne and a number of sommelier-selected wines, will continue to be available.

Qatar has grappled with the issue of alcohol since the tiny Gulf nation was awarded World Cup hosting rights in 2010. Alcohol is available in the country, but its sale is strictly controlled. Most visitors, even before the World Cup, could only buy beer and other alcoholic beverages at the bars of the luxury hotels, and at unusually high prices.

Beer cans in the Doha media center
Beer cans in the Doha media centerHassan Ammar – AP

World Cup organizers seemed keen to appease Budweiser and its corporate parent, Belgium-based multinational Anheuser-Busch InBev, saying that “the tournament organizers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support of our joint commitment to serve everyone.”

Initially, the company’s only public statement was a tongue-in-cheek one from its Twitter account, which wrote: “Well this is awkward….” The tweet was deleted about 90 minutes later, just before the company’s statement was posted. FIFA.

Later, a company representative said it would have to cancel some of its World Cup marketing plans “due to circumstances beyond our control.”

Last week, Qatari organizers tried to downplay the growing tension over the sale of beer, a fixture at World Cups for generations, saying operational plans were still being finalized, and changes were still being made to “the location of certain areas for fans.” His statement also noted that “times and number of dumping destinations” remained the same at all eight stadiums.

World Cup beer: it can be bought at the Fan Fest
World Cup beer: it can be bought at the Fan FestPATRICK T. FALLON-AFP

Budweiser, which pays FIFA $75 million for each quadrennial World Cup cycle, had said it was working with organizers “to relocate concession outlets to designated locations.”

The new plan means the brewery’s red tents might now not be visible at all around stadiums; the possibility of replacing them with other unbranded white ones is being considered. Fridges in the company’s famous red colors will likely be replaced by blue ones, the color associated with Budweiser’s non-alcoholic brand, Budweiser Zero.

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