FIFA, tournament organisers agree to serve alcoholic beer at matches

The organizers of the World Cup in Qatar have passed a policy to serve beer with alcohol to football fans in stadiums and fan zones in the Muslim-majority country.

FIFA said fans will be allowed to purchase alcohol-filled Budweiser beer within the eight stadium sites on Saturday – but not at concession stands inside the hall – before and after matches and in the evening only at the official “Fan Festival”. This takes place in a park in downtown Doha.

Since February 2021, match tickets have been sold as part of corporate packages with “premium drinks” promising hospitality guests access to champagne, wine, spirits and beer.

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The beer policy, affecting most fans, was announced just 11 weeks before the first game and has finally lived up to an expectation since Qatar bid to become the Middle East’s first World Cup hosts 12 years ago.

Budweiser has been the exclusive beer brand for the World Cup since 1986, and parent company AB InBev extended its contract with FIFA until 2022 in a 2011 signing after Qatar was confirmed as the host.

FIFA announced on Saturday that Budweiser with alcohol would be sold “within the stadium area before kick-off and after the final whistle”.

“Inside the stadium, bowl ticket holders have access to non-alcoholic Budweiser Zero,” said the world governing body of soccer. “Budweiser will be on sale at the FIFA Fan Festival from 6.30pm”

Qatar’s organizing committee and AB InBev declined to comment on the issue on Saturday.

Alcohol is more widely 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 from November 20. It is expected to attract more than 1 million visitors, including fans from 31 other nations, to the tiny emirate.

Qatar has 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 prompted local lawmakers to pass a special law exempting the tournament from a ban on the sale of alcohol in stadiums.

Qatar beat four competing bids, including the United States, to win a World Cup-hosting competition where candidates were expected to respect FIFA’s agreements with commercial partners.

At the time FIFA hosted the vote in 2010, these World Cup deals included MATCH Hospitality, which sold corporate packages, and AB InBev. Both companies rejoined FIFA a year later.

“It’s important to remember,” Jaime Byrom, Executive Chairman of MATCH Hospitality, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press, “that the entire FIFA World Cup bid process is designed to create the kind of World Cup experience to offer that fans all over the world have reason to expect and look forward to.” FIFA, tournament organisers agree to serve alcoholic beer at matches

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