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Business news, 26.01.2007 11:48

Zenit Mulls a Beer Pipeline for Stadium

zenit_fans The idea came to St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Alexander Vakhmistrov after he had knocked back a few malted beverages.

Vakhmistrov, who heads up construction in the northern capital, was on hand in Germany recently to watch a football game between two teams sponsored by state natural gas monopoly Gazprom: Zenit from St. Petersburg and the German club Schalke 04.

"At the end of the game, an amusing statistic appeared on the scoreboard: '61,700 people are in attendance, and 44,000 liters of beer have been drunk,'" Vakhmistrov told reporters Wednesday.

Impressed, Vakhmistrov and Zenit president Sergei Fursenko concluded that the Russian club's new stadium should be equipped with a "beer pipeline" like the one at Schalke's Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, which features a five-kilometer pipeline that supplies suds to dozens of restaurants, cafes and snack shops.

"Fursenko and I decided that they can do what they want with the field, the goals and the stands, but we've got to have such a beer pipeline," he told the newspaper Delovoi Peterburg in an interview published Thursday.

Vakhmistrov said the pipeline at Zenit's new $250 million stadium, which is being built on the site of the old Kirovsky stadium on Krestovsky Island, will pump beer to VIP boxes and cafes in the stadium from 1,000-liter kegs.

"They don't bring trucks full of bottles, cans and other packaging into [Veltsin's Arena] anymore," Vakhmistrov said, Delovoi Peterburg reported. "I saw it myself and even drank this beer, as it was a weekend and I could take the liberty."

But there could be a hitch in the plan.

Swilling beer is practically a requirement for millions of sports fans at stadiums across Europe and the United States, but Russian law forbids the sale and consumption of beer at sporting events.

While Russia's football fans do not have the reputation of England's hard-drinking hooligans, they are not exactly regarded as angels. Pre-match boozing sessions are common, and thousands of football fans are arrested or placed in drunk tanks every season after fighting before, during and after games.

Zenit spokesman Alexei Petrov said the club would welcome beer sales at the stadium.

David Watts, an international sports consultant based in Moscow, said large football stadiums are always hard-pressed to make money, and that a well-run concession program with beer sales can help recoup some of the operating costs.

"But the authorities have decided that security concerns should trump commercial interests, which makes sense, since profit is rarely a driving force behind sports venues in Russia," Watts said.

Pyotr Makarenko, commercial director for the Russian Football Union, said beer sales for European clubs with large stadiums can bring in up to 1 million euros per game, Vedomosti reported Thursday.

In addition to beer-loving Zenit fans, St. Petersburg brewers would likely be winners should the plans go ahead. Vakhmistrov said the supplier would be a local brewery.

"If there is a competition to supply beer to the stadium, we will certainly consider participating," said Alexei Kedrin, a spokesman for St. Petersburg-based Baltika, Russia's No. 1 brewer.

Kedrin said it was unlikely the system would be installed until the question of legal beer sales at stadiums had been cleared up.

"Otherwise they'll have to fill it with kefir instead," he said.

Kedrin said the ban "prevents people from drinking beer in a place where they should probably be drinking it."

"In moderate amounts, of course," he added.

News source: themoscowtimes.com

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