DOHA, QATAR CNN — Just two days before the start of the World Cup in Qatar, football’s world governing body, FIFA, confirmed that eight stadiums hosting the tournament’s 64 matches would not sell alcohol. “Based on discussions between the host country authorities and FIFA, it has been decided to focus on the sale of alcoholic beverages at FIFA Fan Festivals, other fan destinations and licensed venues, and to remove beer points around the Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 stadiums.” A FIFA statement said. The Islamic State is considered very conservative and strictly regulates the sale and consumption of alcohol. Last September, Qatar said it would allow fans who purchased tickets to purchase alcoholic beers from three hours before a World Cup soccer match to one hour after the final whistle, but not during the game. The FIFA statement added that “sales of the Bud Zero, which will continue to be available at all World Cup venues in Qatar, will not be affected.” “The host authorities and FIFA will continue to work to ensure that the stadium and surrounding area provide a fun, respectful and enjoyable experience for all fans.” While some fans may be happy that the stadium is non-alcoholic, others were confused and frustrated, including 21-year-old student Arnov Paul-Choudhury. “You should be able to drink at the World Cup, football and around the stadium,” he told CNN Sports in Doha. “I don’t think they’re doing the right thing to attract fans.” Budweiser was scheduled to sell beer around the box offices surrounding the eight stadiums before and after each game. The beer brand, one of FIFA’s partners, quickly deleted the social media post, but tweeted “umm, that’s awkward.” Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer. “The tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continued support of our common commitment during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar,” a FIFA statement said. According to the New York Times, Budweiser paid about $75 million for its sponsorship deal with FIFA. A spokesperson for AB InBev said, “As a partner of FIFA for over 30 years, we look forward to revitalizing the FIFA World Cup™ campaign around the world to celebrate football together with consumers.” “Some of the planned arena activations cannot go ahead due to circumstances beyond our control.” The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), the national body for football fans in England and Wales, condemned the decision to sell the beer. In a statement released on Friday, the FSA said: “Some fans like beer at matches and some don’t. Organizing Committee communication and clarity towards supporters. “If they can change their minds about this immediately without any explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will fulfill other commitments related to accommodation, transportation or cultural issues.” Fans aren’t the only ones disappointed with the 11-hour U-turn. Ben Peppi, Head of Sports Services at JMW Solicitors, says the move is “hugely damaging” to the FIFA brand. “The brand will be moving very carefully around FIFA for future tournaments,” he told CNN Sports. “If, two days before the biggest global sporting event they host, they look back at the brand and say, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that,’ and you break the contract, all the security for the new brand.” The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will run from 20 November to 18 December. CNN is still waiting for an official statement from Qatar’s Supreme Council.
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