The move comes after pressure from host nation Qatar – but controversially corporate guests will still be allowed to drink at games. And last night supporters branded Fifa officials bungling killjoys for the U-turn just two days before the controversial tournament is as a consequence of kick-off.
The football governing body planned to permit official beer Budweiser to be sold outside all eight venues when games are being played in a leisure of the Muslim state’s strict alcohol rules.
But on Friday, Fifa said the a whole bunch of hundreds of supporters pouring into Qatar this weekend would must go with out a drink as they arrive to see their team.
Booze sales for the month-long football festival can be limited to the authorised fan zones in addition to licensed restaurants and hotels.
The move was negotiated by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, Budweiser, and Qatar’s organising body, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.
But it surely is alleged to have followed a request from Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, brother of Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Qatar is principally teetotal but its big ex-pat community is allowed to purchase alcohol in licensed premises and non-Muslim locals drink at home with a permit.
The fan zones exemption will only allow sales between certain times, and a pint will cost £12 – with drinkers limited to 4 each to stop drunkenness.
And revellers arrested for being drunk face being taken to a special sobering-up zone.
The news follows controversy over Qatar’s ban on same-sex relationships, human rights record and attitudes towards women.
Last night supporters blasted Fifa’s change of heart. Ashley Brown, spokesman for the Football Supporters’ Association said: “The true issue is the last minute U-turn which speaks to a wider problem – the full lack of communication from the organising committee.
“In the event that they can change their minds on this at a moment’s notice, supporters can have concerns about whether they may fulfil guarantees regarding accommodation, transport or cultural issues.”
In Qatar, England fans looking forward to the Three Lions’ opening game against Iran on Monday, reacted with anger and astonishment on the booze ban.
Brian Davidson, the primary supporter to drink an official World Cup beer at a fan zone yesterday, said: “I’m devastated. It doesn’t make sense. What’s unsuitable with having a beer at a match?
“Thousands and thousands of individuals are coming from everywhere in the world they usually just want to look at football, benefit from the sun and knock back a couple of beers. I’ll just must go to the fan zones or a hotel for a drink.”
And Mick Garner, 67, from Scunthorpe, who has watched every England match for nearly 50 years, said: “Some fans can be annoyed because a part of the marketing was that beer was available on the stadiums.”
Ex-pat Ahmed Mohammed, 29, a teacher from Bedford with tickets for the Three Lions’ games against the USA and Wales, said the authorities wouldn’t have faith in fans to behave. “They’ve this impression that England fans are hooligans who can’t be trusted with alcohol however the overwhelming majority are very sensible,” he said.
But England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale vowed the ban would see the Three Lions play higher to cheer up fans denied a beer.
“Hopefully with them not having the ability to drink, we are able to perform on the pitch to present them that excitement and buzz,” said the 24-year-old Arsenal stopper.
A Fifa spokesman said “a call has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues”.
And last night a World Cup source added: ”A bigger variety of fans are attending from across the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol doesn’t play such a big role within the culture.
“The considering was that, for a lot of fans, the presence of alcohol wouldn’t create an enjoyable experience.”
But brewing giant Budweiser, one in all the major sponsors of the World Cup who had been set to sell beer on the grounds, tweeted: “Well that is awkward.”