GENEVA (AP) — The organizers of the World Cup in Qatar have finalized a policy to serve beer with alcohol to football fans in stadiums and fan zones in the Muslim-majority country.
FIFA said that on Saturday fans will be allowed to purchase Budweiser beer with alcohol in the eight stadium complexes – though not at the concession stands in the competitions – before and after games, and only in the evenings at the official “Fan Festival”. It will be held in a downtown Doha park.
Game tickets promising access to champagnes, wine, spirits and beer for hospitality customers in Qatari stadiums have been on sale since February 2021 as part of business packages offering “premium drinks”.
The beer policy that affects most fans was announced just 11 weeks before the first game and finally met an expectation since Qatar campaigned 12 years ago to be the first World Cup host in the Middle East.
Budweiser has been the exclusive beer brand for the World Cup since 1986, and parent company AB InBev renewed its 2022 agreement with FIFA in 2011 after Qatar was confirmed as host.
FIFA said on Saturday that Budweiser containing alcohol will be sold “within the perimeter of the stadium before kick-off and after the final whistle.”
“In the stadium, cardholders will have access to non-alcoholic Budweiser Zero,” the football world said. “Budweiser will be on sale at the FIFA Fan Festival from 6:30 pm.”
Qatar’s 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 anywhere else.
Still, Qatar had to relax its alcohol regulation for the 29-day tournament, which starts on November 20. It is expected to attract more than 1 million visitors, including fans from 31 other countries, to the small emirate.
Qatar has tested its alcohol policy at football matches, including the 2019 Club World Cup with then-European champions Liverpool, South American champions Flamengo and Mexican club Monterrey.
Qatar is not the first World Cup host to relax its stance on alcohol. Ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, pressure from FIFA led local lawmakers to pass a special law exempting the tournament from banning the sale of alcohol in stadiums.
Qatar beat four rival bids, including the United States, to win a World Cup host match where the candidates were expected to respect FIFA agreements with commercial partners.
At the time of the FIFA hosting vote in 2010, those World Cup deals included MATCH Hospitality selling business packages and AB InBev. Both firms returned with FIFA a year later.
“It’s important to remember,” Jaime Byrom, executive chairman of MATCH Hospitality, 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 from around the world the world has a reason to expect and to look forward to.”