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Qatar abruptly prohibits alcohol sales within World Cup stadiums

That’s going to go over well!

Doha Gears Up For FIFA World Cup 2022
Pictured: a place where you can’t purchase beer at the World Cup
Photo by Cui Nan/China News Service via Getty Images

In a decisive and abrupt development, Qatar has changed its stance on alcohol sales at the upcoming World Cup 2022, deciding to ban sales of beer and alcohol within tournament stadiums during the competition. This is a shocking decision made at literally the last possible moment before the start of the tournament, and leaves beer and wine companies like Budweiser who had multimillion dollar contracts in place for Qatar 2022, in the lurch.

Qatar will still allow the purchase and consumption of alcohol in various “zones” near stadiums, and has graciously (?) allowed the sale of non-alcoholic Bud Zero within the stadiums. But beer is completely out now, two days before the first match kicks off.

As Tariq Panja says in the Twitter thread above, this isn’t really about alcohol. OK, it IS, but it’s also about more than that — it’s about how Qatar has repeatedly offered something with relation to this World Cup and then changed its mind and decided to do whatever it wanted with the tacit approval of FIFA. Remember how when Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2012 that it was supposed to be a summer tournament, with “artificial clouds” to help tamp down the heat? Now it’s a winter tournament with club leagues forced to conform around it. There are numerous other examples of Qatar saying one thing and doing another.

This is clearly Qatar throwing its weight around, knowing that it’s far too late for FIFA to do anything about it. Fans have already made their ticket and flight purchases, plus their accommodations. None of those things are likely to be refundable. Not being able to have a beer in the stadium is unlikely to make anyone outright cancel their trip, but it does make the fan experience worse, Qatari officials know it, and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it.

I’m also not sure what recourse companies like Budweiser, who have made significant investments into this tournament, have. It’s likely their contracts are with FIFA or with the tournament, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how they react.

All of it is grimly amusing and also makes you wonder what else Qatar might “change its mind” about at the last minute.