Bloomberg — FIFA president Gianni Infantino defended World Cup host country Qatar’s last gasp decision to ban beer at games.
The alcohol ban at stadiums was first announced on Friday, two days before the start of the event and reversed an earlier agreement to allow FIFA sponsor Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (BUD) to sell Budweiser beer. What is usually the world’s largest sporting event -- a decade in the planning -- kicks off Sunday with the hosts taking on Ecuador.
The ban highlights misunderstandings between the world’s largest brewer, the conservative Muslim country and FIFA, the international governing body of football, over a partnership Global Data said was worth $72 million. Infantino brushed off the ban, saying similar rules existed in France, Spain, Portugal and Scotland.
“If for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive,” Infantino said Saturday at a press conference in Doha.
High-end hospitality suites -- serving spirits and champagne -- will still be able to serve alcohol to guests during the match. Budweiser Zero, the no-alcohol version of the American brew, will also be sold at stadiums.
Infantino said FIFA has a great partnership with Budweiser. “I am very grateful to them in this respect for their collaboration,” he said. “This partnership decision has brought us closer together.”
In Defense of Qatar World Cup
Infantino also pushed back against criticism of the Qatar World Cup a day before the tournament begins following years of planning.
Speaking after months of concern over the country’s treatment of migrant workers, anger at its LGBTQ laws and doubts over the legitimacy of the decision to hold the tournament there, Infantino said it was wrong for Europe to lecture the Qataris.
“Europe can’t give moral lessons to Qatar based on its own actions over 3,000 years,” he said Saturday. “Europe is a great hub of multicultural tolerance but there are things that aren’t great.”
“They should look at themselves before criticizing,” he added.
On the eve of one of the most criticized World Cups ever, Infantino began an almost-hour-long speech by saying: “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker.”
After the last-minute change on Friday to the rules on alcohol sales at the event, there are fears that other regulations governing the tournament may also be altered. Infantino tried to reassure the LGBTQ community they’d be safe, despite Qatar’s laws prohibiting homosexuality.
“Gay people are welcome in Qatar,” he said. “We went through a process.”
Infantino said there have been improvements in the way migrant workers are treated, partly due to the engagement that’s happened as a result of the World Cup.
Infantino said the tournament brought many threats and challenges, some of which hadn’t been faced before. One is having so many stadiums within a relatively short distance of one another, which was a factor in the new rules on beer, he said.
The FIFA chief said the tournament was set to beat revenues from the Russia World Cup four years ago in terms of media rights, sponsorship and ticketing, which would take it past the previous record of $5.4 billion.
“If so many people invest in the World Cup and in Qatar, they invest because they believe in FIFA and trust Qatar,” Infantino said.
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