alcohol consumption banned near stadiums two days before kick-off

Two days before the start of the World Cup, Qatar has decided to further restrict access to alcoholic beverages, initially authorized around the stadiums.

Two days before the start of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar is causing new controversy. By deciding, contrary to what had been announced for months, to ban the consumption of alcohol around the stadiums of the World Cup and to restrict it to the fan-zones established in the capital, Doha, the organizers of the Gulf country took the International Football Federation (FIFA) by surprise. The court upheld the decision in a press releaseFriday, November 18.

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On the eve of the first match of the autumn tournament, which will see the host country and Ecuador face off on Sunday, November 20 (5 p.m., Paris time), the organizers must manage a new controversy, which, failing alcohol, promises to cause a lot of ink to flow.

Since the attribution, in 2010, of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, the first Muslim country to host the high mass of football, the question of beer has been a problem. Firstly because the cohorts of fans traveling to the World Cup matches are usually heavy drinkers of hops, and secondly – ​​above all – because one of the major sponsors of FIFA and the tournament is the brewer Budweiser, whose parent company, ABInBev, pays 75 million dollars (72.4 million euros) to the body for the four years including a tournament.

A World Cup “for everyone”

Already holder of the honorary title of “most expensive beer in World Cup history” – with a pint at 14 euros sold in the fan-zones – Qatar had pressed, a week before the start of the competition, to make less visible the red tents stamped with the logo of the American brewer near the stadiums. From now on, only non-alcoholic drinks (non-alcoholic beer, and the whole range of products from another sponsor, Coca-Cola) will be available there.

In its press release, FIFA welcomed “understanding and support” of its sponsor for three decades. The latter limited himself, on Friday, to specifying that the restrictions on the sale of alcohol were beyond his control. Note that the decision does not concern the VIP areas of the various stadiums, subject to different regulations, and which offer beers, champagne, wines and spirits.

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Why such a reversal, when in September the country had confirmed the opening of beer stands around the stadiums three hours before the matches, and until one hour after the final whistle? “There have been discussions on this issue for a long time, and the general feeling is that stadiums should be for everyone”expresses a well-informed source on the subject. “This World Cup is different from the others because a huge number of fans who attend come from the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol does not play such a big role in the culture. » Implicitly, the organizers fear that the presence of alcohol “does not create a pleasant experience for them”.

While Qatar is not the only country to ban the sale of alcohol in stadiums – this is also the case in France, due to the Evin law – it had promised for months to accommodate the rules. more restrictive of its legislation, directly inspired by Islamic law, to the great football celebration that is the World Cup. Alcohol consumption is legal in the country for non-Muslims, and strictly supervised; but it is not difficult for a foreigner to have access to it – in hotel bars, in particular. “With some fan zones clearly designated as serving alcohol and others without, fans can decide where they want to go, without feeling uncomfortable. At the stadiums, this was not the case until then.continues a source close to the file.

“Fear of clashes with tipsy supporters”

According to a French businessman well introduced to Doha, the most conservative Qataris are not to blame in this decision, “Because alcohol will remain allowed in fan zones, and the fact that people drink in stadiums or elsewhere bothers them in the same way. » He believes that this decision was made for security reasons: ‘They’re scared of violence, that tipsy England fans are becoming a problem’. And wish at all costs to avoid a controversy related to crowd management. “They are afraid of clashes between police and drunken supporters, which would be a disaster for their image, especially if it degenerates. »

The images of some alcoholic English supporterscausing some excesses on the sidelines of the Euro 2021 final at Wembley (United Kingdom) remained in people’s minds, and the organizers want at all costs to prevent the same thing from happening in Qatar.

For fans around the world, who were not hiding their reservations about joining Qatar – and not just for fear of not being able to drink beer – this abrupt change in rules serves as a reminder that the host country of the Cup of the world is able to change its rules at any time.

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