World Cup organizers move beer sales to less prominent areas

Budweiser beer stands at eight World Cup stadiums will be moved to less prominent locations days before the matches start, Qatari organizers said on Monday.

It is the latest change in World Cup plans 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-established Budweiser deal with brewer AB InBev that was renewed through the 2022 tournament 11 years ago.

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

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On Saturdays, eight days before the first games, the agreement was changed to give less visibility to Budweiser-branded vending tents serving beer with alcohol inside the stadium perimeter.

“AB InBev was notified on November 12 and is working with FIFA to move 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 together with FIFA to provide fans with the best possible experience.”

In Qatar, World Cup organizers said “operational plans are being finalised”.

“These plans include venue management teams improving coverage requirements for all match venues,” Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Distribution and Heritage said, referring to beautifying sporting events with temporary branding and facilities for officials.

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“This has a direct impact on the location of certain fan areas,” said the organizers, who declined to answer a question about who made the decision.

Four years ago in Russia, a Budweiser beer stand provided a more prominent spot for patrons outside Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, which hosted the opening game and the final.

Red tents for Budweiser and Coca-Cola — two of FIFA’s longest-running sponsors since the 1980s and 1970s respectively — were placed next to the Vladimir Lenin statue, which watched over fans arriving at the main stadium entrance.

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

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The convention on the sale of beer in Qatar was announced only in September and allowed beer with alcohol to be consumed before and after games within the stadium perimeter. Only alcohol-free Bud Zero may be served during games and in the stadium bowl.

Champagne, wine and spirits as well as beer will be served in stadium restaurants and lounges for corporate hospitality clients. A range of alcoholic beverages can also be purchased by fans staying on the many high-end hotels and three cruise ships chartered by the organizers as floating hotels for the tournament.

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