For many American soccer fans, one of the greatest joys of the beautiful game is being able to watch from the stands, in spring and summer weather, with a beer in hand. But as it turns out, with the return of international club play, take a look — it’s also a joy that is far from universal. Here’s a look at how beer and soccer go together (or don’t go together) in stadiums around the world.
According to MLS’ resident Francophone, Matthias Van Halst, beer has been sold in Belgian stadiums for the last decade. Before that, there was about a decade-long prohibition on beer sales in stadiums, but now, it’s left up to individual clubs to decide, and most of them opt to allow it. Jupiler, the most popular beer in the nation, sponsors the country’s top-flight league, and has created appropriately soccer-themed commercials.
Beer was banned in Brazil’s soccer stadiums in 2003 over concerns around fan violence, but the ban was lifted to accommodate the 2014 World Cup. Though FIFA officials quoted in this Miami Herald article debated semantics, legislation signed by now-embattled Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff allowed fans to hoist beers in the stands to celebrate goals – even American goals scored 30 seconds into a match. Last fall, Rio’s legislative assembly passed a bill allowing beer to be sold inside stadiums there.
The Premier League returns this weekend – along with the nation’s arguably peculiar rules on beer. Their helpful online guide for those curious about matches in England’s top echelon reminds fans of their caveats. Alcohol is okay in the concourse, but not in your actual seats.
France isn’t as laissez-faire as you might expect when it comes to sports and alcohol. Ligue 1, the nation’s top-flight league, doesn’t allow alcohol sales explicitly (or alcohol advertising at all) as part of the Evin Law, though individual clubs can get occasional waivers.
In fact this past April, to prove that beer “does not create hooligans,” the LFP (French football league) pushed for beer – but not other alcohol — sales at the French League Cup between PSG and Lille. Still, they were rebuffed by the city of St. Denis, where the Stade de France is located. However, that might not be the last we hear of efforts to allow alcohol inside stadiums.
Germany, unsurprisingly, is quite beer-friendly. This Talksport article from 2015, one of many English-penned articles wistfully comparing the German soccer experience to the English one, notes that beer can be drunk from the stands, whereas in England, that hasn’t been the case since the mid-1980s. The league even has an official beer sponsor, Krombacher, with Bavarian brewing company Paulaner appropriately aligning behind Bayern Munich, and other German breweries lending sponsorship support to other Bundesliga teams.
While soccer fans in Italy can drink at games, Serie A stadium web sites make a point of specifying that only beer under 5 percent alcohol can be sold and consumed there.
Kirsten Schlewitz, a Serie A expert and editor and founder of the excellent new Unusual Efforts web site, tells us, “In the Serie A games I've been to, though, no one seems all that concerned with drinking in their seats. They drink outside beforehand, and I saw some stuffing tiny bottles of vodka into their socks before entering. Not all that many seemed to want to buy beer inside the stadium, even though you can.”
This 2014 article contrasting Mexican and English soccer fans from the Matador Network notes that not only are beers sold and allowed inside the stands, but that they often become incorporated in celebrations. (The article also notes that you can have a piping-hot Cup o’ Noodles along with your liter of beer, if you so choose, though that seems like the very thing you wouldn’t want in Estadio Azteca for a noon kickoff.)
Beer-tossing is not just confined to Mexico – an American ex-pat blogger chronicling his life in Panama City noted that the custom is celebrated in Panama, as he witnessed in a 2015 match with CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica. There, beers are not only cheap by American sporting standards ($1.50 per 16 oz. serving), but can be bought a case at a time from vendors in the stands.
If you find yourself in Belgrade for either a Red Star or Partizan game, know that (according to Schlewitz, who's based there) not only do they not sell beer in the stadiums, but bars around both stadiums stop serving two full hours before a match.
If you have visions of toasting Barcelona in the Camp Nou or Real Madrid in the Bernabeu on a future Spanish vacation, know that you’d be doing so with alcohol-free beer in either venue. However, the bars around each iconic stadium do serve fans – as a 2013 Grantland article on attending a Real game noted, fans are often seen “swilling beers that are mockingly called ‘minis,’ because they are (American) football-sized things.”