2022 FIFA World Cup: Qatar under pressure to ease alcohol ban
AB InBev, whose brands include Budweiser, is one of the event’s main sponsors and wants Qatar’s alcohol ban eased. In 2016, the government said it would impose a total ban, but now it seems moving towards making some concessions.
Doha (AsiaNews) – The 2022 FIFA World Cup is caught up in a new thorny issue following years of accusations of abuse and poor labour conditions on construction sites associated with the sporting event set for 21 November-18 December.
Local sources report intense lobbying by FIFA officials to get local authorities to ease the country’s ban on alcoholic beverages in and near stadiums.
Under Islamic law, the consumption of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages is banned, although this varies from Muslim country to Muslim country and drinking is often tolerated as long as it is not visible.
Moreover, in some countries, like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the ban is not enforced as long as it is restricted to certain hotels and restaurants that cater to foreign visitors, especially Westerners.
However, considering the hundreds of thousands of supporters who will come from various countries, such as England fans notorious for their excessive drinking, FIFA would like Qatari authorities to make an exception for sales and consumption at World Cup venues.
In Qatar, a small emirate in the Persian Gulf, alcoholic beverages are available in hotels and private clubs, but drinking is a serious offence if done in public.
Even when allowed in well-defined and concealed locations, drinking is not part of the local culture or tradition, and it has proven to be a controversial point since the country was awarded hosting rights for the World Cup.
A wet fan zone was trialled when the Gulf state held the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019, and a similar plan is expected for this year’s tournament. However, uncertainty remains over the sale of alcohol at the eight stadiums that will be used in the World Cup.
According to Bloomberg, Qatari officials are facing pressure from FIFA and brewer AB InBev (Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV), whose drinks include Budweiser, the official beer sponsor of the World Cup for more than 30 years.
One option under consideration is making a product with a low alcohol content, possibly Bud Light, available at the venues, but this might not go down well with the fans.
In November 2016, Qatar 2022 said that visitors and fans would not be able to buy or drink alcohol in public places; since then, organisers appear to have shifted from a hard-line approach thanks to prospects for greater profits.
Negotiations are underway with the government to find a way to please visitors and fans without breaking Islamic law.
Both FIFA and sponsors want to balance everyone’s interests with maintaining a “respectful” atmosphere towards the host country’s values.