Qatar's World Cup Organisers to Ban Sale of Alcoholic Beer at Stadiums

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The decision comes just two days before the start of games in Qatar and 12 years after the country first agreed to respect FIFA's commercial partners.

Qatar's World Cup organisers are banning the sale of all alcoholic beer drinks at the eight stadiums used for the soccer tournament in the country.

According to a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, non-alcoholic beer will be made available for fans at the 64 matches.

Champagne, wine, whiskey, and other alcoholic drinks are still expected to be served in the hospitality areas of the stadiums.

The alcohol-ban decision comes just two days before the start of games in Qatar and 12 years after the country first agreed to respect FIFA's commercial partners.

Ronan Evain, the executive director of the fan group Football Supporters Europe, called the decision an "extremely worrying" one.

Tweeting, he said: "For many fans, whether they don't drink alcohol or are used to dry stadium policies at home, this is a detail. It won't change their tournament.

"But with 48 (hours) to go, we've clearly entered a dangerous territory, where 'assurances' don't matter anymore."

While a sudden decision like this may seem extreme in Western countries, Qatar is an autocracy governed by a hereditary emir, who has absolute say over all governmental decisions.

The energy-rich Gulf Arab country, like neighbouring Saudi Arabia, follows an ultraconservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism. 

Qatar's government and its Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Budweiser's parent company, AB InBev, which pays tens of millions of dollars at each World Cup for exclusive rights to sell beer, has already shipped the majority of its stock from Britain to Qatar in high expectation of selling its product to millions of fans. 

The company's partnership with FIFA began at the 1986 tournament, and they are negotiating the renewal of their deal for the next World Cup in North America.

When Qatar launched its bid to host the World Cup and, again, when signing contracts after winning the vote in 2010, the country agreed to FIFA's requirements of selling alcohol in stadiums.

AB InBev's deal with FIFA was renewed in 2011, after Qatar was picked as host, in a two-tournament package through 2022.

The Belgium-based brewer has, however, faced uncertainty in recent months on the exact details of where it can serve and sell beer in Qatar.

Ab InBev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.