Qatar World Cup Bans Beer, Other Alcoholic Beverages Two Days Before Tournament

by Suzanne Halliburton
Getty Images

It’s only two days before the start of the World Cup in Qatar. But the host country has once again dampened the mood for the multitude of fans planning to attend the matches.

The Qatar World Cup organizers changed their minds and will not allow the sale of beer or other alcoholic beverages at the eight stadiums used for World Cup matches. The World Cup has a multitude of big-name sponsors, with Budweiser among the largest. The beer company paid $75 million to the World Cup as part of the deal to promote its products. Earlier in the week, World Cup organizers told Budweiser to hide its beer tents.

Here’s why beer and alcohol are problematic for a World Cup in Qatar. The country is Muslim and very conservative. There is no outright ban of alcohol. Rather, the sale of it is tightly controlled. Tourists only have access to buying it at approved bars, mostly inside upscale hotels. No doubt, there would be culture clashes between the rowdy, fun-loving soccer fans on holiday and the citizens who don’t approve of drinking.

FIFA, soccer’s international organization, awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010. Sides have negotiated the sale of alcohol in the years since then. Before Friday’s announcement, Qatar had agreed to allow beer sales outside the stadiums, but not inside the venues.

World Cup fans still can buy beer at designated fan zones and at concession stands like this one in Doha. (Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Fans In Luxury Suites Still Can Drink at Matches

Budweiser’s contract with FIFA allows it to be the exclusive beer of the World Cup. Plus, Budweiser is tasked with supplying beer to FIFA’s other partners and their guests.

However, Qatar isn’t banning the drinking of alcohol inside the World Cup venues. If you’re lucky enough to have a seat in a stadium luxury suite, you’ll find beer, wine, alcohol and a FIFA-branded champagne. But those suites typically are for the well-connected and/or very rich fans of the game.

People can still purchase beer at designated fan zones. So that hasn’t changed.

Meanwhile, the World Cup opens play Sunday, with host-country Qatar taking on Ecuador.

The United States opens group play Monday against Wales. The Americans didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup for the first time in 30 years. So U.S. soccer fans are eager to see the Americans in action. The United States is ranked 16th in the world coming into the tournament. The team is in group B, which also includes England and Iran.

Brazil is the betting favorite to win the tournament.