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Rugby World Cup

Don't run out of beer, Rugby World Cup organizers warn bar owners

Spectators drink six times more beer watching rugby than soccer

The official beer of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Heineken, is hoping for a 70% sales bump during the tournament, which runs from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2. (Photo by Yuki Nakao)

TOKYO -- With half a million thirsty rugby fans about to descend on Japan for the start of the World Cup on Friday, tournament organizers are warning bar and restaurant owners not to run out of beer.

In special information sessions held in at least four of the 12 host cities in the lead up to the tournament, business owners were repeatedly told to make sure they had enough beer to satisfy overseas visitors.

Rugby World Cup 2019's executive director of operations Mick Wright even went so far as to say that running out of beer could ruin Japan's reputation for hospitality on social media.

"Rugby fans visiting Japan, are expecting to experience Japan's unique culture and world renowned hospitality," Hayato Okada, a spokesman for Rugby World Cup 2019, told Nikkei Asian Review.

While the Rugby World Cup might only be the world's third-largest sporting event after the soccer World Cup and the summer Olympics, rugby fans could be international sport's biggest drinkers, guzzling six times more beer on average than soccer fans.

Foreign rugby fans also drink more beer on average than Japanese, consuming 4.4 cups of beer for every one cup of beer drunk by a Japanese spectator.

And, as organizers have pointed out, Japan wouldn't be the first host nation to experience a beer shortage during a world cup.

Beer sold out during an Argentina-Ireland tie at the in 2003 world cup in Australia, and in the French city of Marseilles four years later, most bars ran reportedly ran out of beer during the South Africa-Fiji match.

HUB, a British style pub chain that operates across the country, said it has secured seven times the usual amount of beer at its outlet near the International Stadium Yokohama that will host a total of seven matches including the final on Nov. 2.

And Dutch brewer Heineken, which is hoping to get a 70% sales bump during the tournament in its role as the official beer of the 2019 World Cup, said was expecting to sell over 1.1 million cases of beer across Japan over the course of the year.

"Our market share is less than 1% as of 2019," a Heineken spokesman told Nikkei. "So the world cup is a great opportunity to improve brand awareness among Japanese consumers."

Still, some Japanese restaurateurs remain unconvinced by the suggestion that rugby crowds could drink them dry.

Sengoku Yakitori Ieyasu, which operates 11 grilled chicken restaurants, including one near the rugby stadium in Fukuoka on northern shore of Japanese island Kyushu, said it won't be putting any special measures in place.

"We don't expect special demand from the rugby world cup," a spokesman for the restaurant chain said. "I don't think piling up the stock is necessary due to the number of seats are limited."

The spokesman added that while many foreigners might be looking for an international brand like Heineken, he would be sticking with tradition.

"We have been ordering Kirin Beer for long time," the spokesman said. "We do not serve foreign brands."

Hiroyoshi Konagawa, owner of Waki, an izakaya-style bar near the Oita stadium, also on Kyushu island, said most foreigners wouldn't know how to find his place.

"We are not going to stock extra beer," Konagawa said. "Most of our customers are regular ones."

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