GENEVA (AP) — World Cup organizers in Qatar have finalized a policy to serve beer with alcohol to soccer fans in stadiums and fan zones in the Muslim-majority country.
FIFA said on Saturday that fans will be allowed to buy Budweiser beer with alcohol in the stadium’s eight enclosures – but not in the concession stands of the contest – before and after games, and during the evenings only during the official “Fan Festival”. It takes place in a park in downtown Doha.
Match tickets promising access to champagnes, wines, spirits and beers for hotel guests in Qatari stadiums have been on sale since February 2021 as part of corporate packages offering “premium drinks”.
The beer policy affecting most fans was announced just 11 weeks before the first game and finally fulfills an expectation since Qatar campaigned 12 years ago to be the first hosts of the World Cup in the Middle East.
Budweiser has been the exclusive beer brand for the World Cup since 1986 and parent company AB InBev renewed its deal through 2022 with FIFA in a 2011 signing after Qatar was confirmed as hosts.
FIFA said on Saturday that Budweiser with alcohol will be sold “within the stadium perimeter before kick-off and after the final whistle.”
“Inside the stadium, ticket holders will have access to non-alcoholic Budweiser Zero,” the world football body said. “At the FIFA Fan Festival, Budweiser will be available for purchase from 6:30 p.m.”
The Qatar Organizing Committee and AB InBev declined to comment on the matter on Saturday.
Alcohol is more available in Qatar than in some Middle Eastern states, although it is only served in licensed hotel restaurants and bars. It is illegal to consume it elsewhere.
Still, Qatar had to relax its alcohol regulations for the 29-day tournament starting on November 20. It is expected to attract over a million visitors, including fans from 31 other nations, to the tiny emirate.
Qatar tested its alcohol policy at football matches, including the 2019 Club World Cup which featured then-European champions Liverpool, South American champions Flamengo and Mexican club Monterrey.
Qatar is not the first World Cup host to soften its stance on alcohol. Ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, pressure from FIFA led local lawmakers to pass a special bill exempting the tournament from the ban on selling alcohol in stadiums.
Qatar beat four rival bids, including the United States, to win a competition to host the World Cup where bidders had to abide by FIFA’s agreements with commercial partners.
At the time of FIFA’s hosting vote in 2010, these World Cup deals included MATCH Hospitality selling corporate packages and AB InBev. Both companies joined FIFA a year later.
“It’s important to remember,” MATCH Hospitality Executive Chairman Jaime Byrom told The Associated Press in a recent interview, “that the entire FIFA World Cup bidding process is designed to deliver the kind of World Cup experience that all fans around the world have a reason to wait and look forward to.
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