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High-rolling World Cup fans to get alcohol at stadiums

2022 Nov 19, 12:48, Qatar
Champagne is served at the Pol Roger Champagne House in Epernay, France, on Oct. 15, 2014. (AP Photo)

For a price, there will be plenty of Champagne, whiskey, vodka and even sommelier-selected wines available for fans at World Cup stadiums in Qatar.

And beer, too, for this exclusive group of high rollers.

At a cost of $3,000 per ticket, fans will be able to enjoy high-end alcoholic drinks and fine food in the luxurious hospitality lounges, suites and restaurants at the eight stadiums built and renovated for soccer’s biggest event.

For $950 per person, clients of long-time FIFA partner MATCH Hospitality will be served wine, beer and “street food on the move” in a tented village next to the stadium.

That is going to be a far different experience from regular fans at the tournament, which starts Sunday when the host country faces Ecuador in the opening match, because Qatar decided Friday to ban beer sales at the stadiums.

The beer policy finally agreed to in September was changed at nearly the last minute by the conservative Islamic nation, where access to alcohol is strictly limited. Only alcohol-free Bud Zero will be sold inside the stadium grounds at the 64 games.

It was a stunning reversal — and a potential breach of contract — for Budweiser’s parent company, AB InBev, and a brand that has been served at the World Cup for 36 years.

Qatar’s late move in its much scrutinized, often criticized 12-year preparation to stage the World Cup won’t have an effect on the luxury end of the supporters’ market, however. Every customer of MATCH Hospitality — 250,000 tickets have been sold since February 2021 — can still be served drinks with alcohol as promised.

Spirits are added to wine and beer in the “Pavilion” category, which costs at least $1,900. Champagne and cocktails join the drinks menu in the $3,050 “Business” class.

The height of luxury is the Pearl Lounge, with seats at the halfway line in Lusail Stadium — the venue that will host the final and nine other matches. Prices start at $4,950 and come with “mixologists, Champagne selection, sommeliers, and premium spirits.”

It has all added up to record sales for MATCH, which is providing hospitality at its fourth World Cup — though the Byrom family which runs the company has worked with FIFA since the 1980s.

Being able to serve alcohol discreetly but without limitations in Qatar was a given when MATCH renewed with FIFA in 2011. That was the year after FIFA picked Qatar as host, and at about the same time AB InBev re-upped.

MATCH agreed in 2011 to pay FIFA a guaranteed $300 million plus a share of profits to cover all of its tournaments for eight years from 2015-23. That is at least double what FIFA should earn from the Budweiser sponsorship over the same period, and Byrom suggested Qatar was aware of its obligations to honor commercial deals even before it won hosting rights.

MATCH has also tailored its service to the cultural sensitivities of the Middle East. Separate lounge areas have been created for families and people who do not drink alcohol.


High-rolling World Cup Fans get alcohol stadiums Champagne whiskey vodka wines Qatar
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