Gianni Infantino insists he is in charge at World Cup after beer ban controversy

FIFA president Gianni Infantino insists he is “200 per cent in control” of the World Cup in Qatar despite the ban on alcohol sales at stadiums raising questions over who was really in charge.

Football’s governing body confirmed on Friday it had pulled plans to sell Budweiser – the tournament’s official beer – within the stadium perimeters.

It has been reported this late U-turn was heavily influenced by Qatar’s royal family, and raised concerns over whether other last-minute changes could occur which might affect the teams and their fans.

However, Infantino was adamant his organisation had not been railroaded by the hosts.

“I feel 200 per cent in control of this World Cup,” he said during an extraordinary press conference in Doha on the eve of the opening match of the tournament.

“Every decision is taken in partnership with the Qatari government.

“If this is the biggest issue we have for the World Cup, I will sign for it immediately and go to the beach and relax until the 18th of December.

“Let me just assure you that every decision taken at this World Cup is a joint decision. Every decision is discussed and debated and taken jointly. There will be many big fan zones, eight to 10 fan zones, where you can buy alcohol. Up to 100,000 people can simultaneously drink alcohol.

“I think if, for three or four hours a day, you cannot drink a beer, you will survive. Especially, because actually the same rules apply in France, Spain, Portugal and Scotland where no beer is allowed in stadiums.”

Sources close to the local organising committee said on Friday the decision had been made out of concern for local supporters – and those from the wider Middle East and Asian continent – who are not from a drinking culture.

Infantino accepted there had been “a late change of policy” and suggested it was to do with the unique flow of spectators at this World Cup, where the proximity of the eight venues means fans could attend more than one match in a day.

The decision has also raised questions over FIFA’s long-term partnership with Budweiser. A tweet from the Budweiser official account, minutes before confirmation of the ban came, stated: “Well, this is awkward.”

A Budweiser advertising board at Wales' training facility in Qatar
A Budweiser advertising board at Wales’ training facility in Qatar (Mike Egerton/PA)

It was later deleted, but it remains to be seen how the matter will be resolved.

Infantino insists the relationship with the sponsor remains strong.

“I was also hearing this was bad for Budweiser,” he said.

“Budweiser is a great partner of FIFA and a few weeks ago we have been shaking hands with the CEO to continue the partnership until 2026. Partners are partners in good and bad times, in difficult and easy times.

“When times are more tense, the partnership gets stronger. I am very grateful to Budweiser for the co-operation we have had in the last years, and last couple of weeks.”

The next tournament promises to be a lucrative one for Budweiser as it will be staged across 16 venues in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Eric Dier says it is up to the players to provide entertainment in stadiums
Eric Dier says it is up to the players to provide the entertainment in stadiums (Martin Rickett/PA)

England defender Eric Dier does not believe the last-minute decision will hurt the atmosphere at stadiums.

“Personally, I’d like to think that you can enjoy yourself with or without alcohol first and foremost,” he said. “For me that’s important.

“I think Aaron Ramsdale replied very well yesterday – it’s up to us on the pitch to bring the entertainment.

“I feel that in any football game I play the entertainment comes from the style of the game, the type of the game that it is.

“It’s up to us as a team and every team in the tournament to bring great football, great football matches, exciting football. That’s what is going to create a great atmosphere in the stadiums.”