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No booze in public at Qatar World Cup?

November 9, 2016

The head of the committee organizing World Cup 2022 in Qatar has told a state-run newspaper that there will be strict controls on alcohol in public. He's looking for a ban in public places, and the stadiums themselves.

Bierselige deutsche Fans WM 2014
Among the major World Cup sponsors, Coca Cola could have an advantage over Budweiser in Qatari stadiumsImage: picture-alliance/dpa

If Qatari officials get their way, alcohol consumption will be subject to strict regulation at the 2022 World Cup. 

Hassan Al Thawadi, who heads the country's World Cup organizing committee, told state-owned newspaper "Al Sharq" that while there would not be a total ban on alcohol consumption, it would be restricted to "far-away places," without offering examples.

"There will be no alcohol consumption on the streets, squares and public places and that is final," Al Thawadi told the Arabic-language newspaper, in an interview published on Tuesday. "We are against the provision of alcohol in stadiums and their surroundings."

Drinking is not illegal in Qatar, with alcohol available in hotels, while foreigners living in the Gulf emirate can buy booze after acquiring a license to do so. Drinking in public is outlawed. Bringing alcohol into the country is also illegal, a useful advance tip for any fans considering a pilgrimage to the first ever World Cup in the Middle East.

FIFA liable to push for looser laws

The Qatari official said his government did not intend to cave to pressure from FIFA on loosening alcohol laws. Brazil agreed to allow alcohol to be served in stadiums in 2014, reportedly at FIFA's insistence, while Russia's prohibitive regulations regarding alcohol consumption in public places are expected to be softened for the 2018 tournament.

Frankreich UEFA EURO 2016 britischer Hooligan mit Hut England Russland
Was beer to blame? Or did hooliganism at Euro 2016 have more complex roots? Image: picture-alliance/dpa/EPA/D. Zennaro

"I did not get into a discussion with FIFA on this matter and there has been great pressure from FIFA on Russia to change its laws," Al Thawadi said. "But our position is clear - we will legalize according to Qatari law and commensurate with the customs and traditions."

Alcohol restrictions are not entirely alien to European fans, however, with UEFA not permitting such beverages to be sold inside stadiums at Champions League and Europa League games. Most clubs, especially in Germany, offer beer and other weaker alcoholic beverages at domestic league and cup matches.

Qatari organizers have already suggested possible links between alcohol consumption and fan violence at Euro 2016 in France this summer.

US beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev (Budweiser and many other brews) is one of the major corporate sponsors for the World Cup.

According to Qatar's own estimates, as many as 1 million football fans will visit for the 2022 World Cup. Al Thawadi said in the newspaper interview that he was hoping for a similar effect to Germany's World Cup in 2006, which he said contributed to an improved image for the country, at home and in the wider world.

Winter blues without booze?

Even putting allegations of corruption in the bidding process to one side, Qatar's World Cup preparations have suffered severe early turbulence. After much back and forth, world football officials finally conceded that the competition, which traditionally takes place in June and July, Europe's off-season - would have to be played in the northern hemisphere's winter in order to avoid scorching temperatures on the pitch. This is liable to severely disrupt the 2021-22 club football season.

Organizers also face allegations of abusing the primarily foreign workforce building major infrastructure projects ahead of the tournament. On Wednesday, a 29-year-old who died at one such site was formally named as Anil Kumar Pasman from Nepal. Qatari officials said that he was the first laborer to die on a World Cup project; Pasman died in October while working on the construction of the Al Wakrah Stadium.

Al Thawadi said in the same interview that the investigation into Pasman's death had led to "extended oversight" of health and safety procedures and that in such matters, there was "always more to be done." Al Thawadi led Qatar's successful bid for the 2022 World Cup before being appointed head of its organizing committee.

msh/pfd (AFP, AP)