World Cup organizers move beer sales to less prominent areas

Budweiser beer stands at eight World Cup stadiums have been moved to less prominent locations just days before the games start, Qatari organizers said on Monday.

It is the latest change in World Cup planning that began more than a decade ago in the Muslim-majority emirate, where alcohol sales are strictly regulated.

Qatar agreed when it launched its historic hosting bid in 2009 to honor FIFA’s commercial partnerships, including the long-standing Budweiser deal that was renewed 11 years ago with brewer AB InBev through the 2022 tournament.

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World Cup organizers finally confirmed a beer sales policy covering stadiums and official FIFA fan sites in September.

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On Saturday, just eight days before the first games, the deal was changed to allow Budweiser-branded marquees less visibility for serving alcoholic beers inside the stadium perimeter.

“AB InBev was notified on November 12 and is working with FIFA to relocate the concession stands to the locations as instructed,” the Belgium-based company, which includes Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement on Monday. “We are working with FIFA to give fans the best possible experience.”

In Qatar, the organizers of the World Cup said that “operational plans are being finalized”.

“These plans include venue management teams that increase overlay requirements for all competition venues,” Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said, referring to decorating sporting events with temporary branding and facilities for officials.

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“This has a direct impact on the location of certain fan zones,” said organizers, who declined to address who made the decision.

Four years ago in Russia, the Budweiser beer stand had one of the most prominent sponsor positions outside Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, which hosted the first leg and final.

Red marquees for Budweiser and Coca-Cola — two of FIFA’s longest-running sponsors since the 1980s and 1970s respectively — were set up next to a statue of Vladimir Lenin that towered over fans approaching the stadium’s main entrance.

FIFA does not disclose the value of individual commercial contracts for the World Cup, but second-tier sponsorships such as Budweiser are worth tens of millions of dollars.

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A compromise on the sale of beer in Qatar was announced only in September, and beer with alcohol is allowed to be served before and after matches in the stadium grounds. Only alcohol-free Bud Zero can be served during games and inside the stadium bowl.

Champagne, wines and spirits as well as beer will be served in stadium restaurants and lounges for corporate catering clients. Fans staying in most of the top hotels and the three cruise ships chartered by the organizers as floating hotels for the tournament can also purchase a range of alcoholic beverages.

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