Beer sales at World Cup could be stopped by organizers

Sports

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — World Cup organizers reportedly have made another late change in alcohol policy only two days before games start in Qatar, banning beer sales at the eight soccer stadiums in and around Doha.

Qatari authorities are pressing FIFA to ban all sales of long-time World Cup beer sponsor Budweiser at the eight venues, according to media reports. The World Cup organizing committee and FIFA both declined to comment Friday on the reports of the plan, which were first revealed by The Times of London.

Budweiser’s parent company, AB InBev, pays tens of millions of dollars at each World Cup for exclusive rights to sell beer. The company’s partnership with FIFA started at the 1986 tournament.

When Qatar launched its bid to host the World Cup, the country agreed to respect FIFA’s commercial partners, and again when signing contracts after winning the vote in 2010.

At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the host country was forced to change a law to allow alcohol sales in stadiums.

AB InBev’s deal with FIFA was renewed in 2011 — after Qatar was picked as host — in a two-tournament package through 2022. However, the Belgium-based brewer has faced uncertainty in recent months on the exact details of where it can serve and sell beer in Qatar.

An agreement was announced in September for beer with alcohol to be sold within the stadium perimeters before and after games. Only alcohol-free Bud Zero would be sold in the stadium concourses for fans to drink in their seats in branded cups.

Last weekend, AB InBev was left surprised by a new policy insisted on by Qatari organizers to move beer stalls to less visible locations within the perimeter.

Budweiser was also to be sold in the evenings only at the official FIFA fan zone in downtown Al Bidda Park, where up to 40,000 fans can gather to watch games on giant screens. The price was confirmed as $14 for a beer.

Ab InBev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company will be based at an upscale hotel in the West Bay area of Doha with its own branded nightclub for the tournament.

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