Qatar World Cup: Fans worried about alcohol restrictions

12 Nov

It is part of the football culture for so many fans around the world. A few alcoholic drinks before kickoff help settle the nerves and bring friends together. Drowning your sorrows with a beer after a tough loss, or cracking open the champagne following a big win, are also commonplace.


But this year's men's World Cup, from November 20-December 18 in Qatar, will be the first in a majority Muslim country where alcohol is effectively banned for citizens and on the streets. It is available for non-Muslims, particularly in international hotels, but the throngs of fans arriving from all over the world will be given a bit more leeway when it comes to beer.

American beer brand Budweiser, a sponsor of FIFA's tournament, will be available inside the perimeters of stadiums for ticketholders before and after the games but beer cannot be taken into the stadiums themselves or onto the streets. The same brand will also be available at the official FIFA Fan Festival in Al Bidda Park in the center of Doha in the evenings.

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Qatar's Supreme Committee is organizing the tournament and told DW: "Alcohol is not part of Qatari culture but hospitality is, and so those fans who wish to consume alcohol during the World Cup in Qatar will be able to do so." However, it will all be very different to previous World Cups where images of hordes of fans gathering in squares to drink alcohol before matches have become commonplace.

'Hard stop'

In Qatar, getting to the stadiums early looks the best bet for fans wanting to create a similar atmosphere. Once there though, there will only be Budweiser as well as its non-alcoholic version available to purchase alongside Coca Cola products  —  another tournament sponsor. 

Bailey Brown, president of the Independent Supporters Council North America, is worried that fans may paradoxically drink too much inside the stadium perimeter before matches, given the restrictions.

"How are people going to drink knowing that they only have three hours before the game in this zone? I think that is more concerning," she told DW. "I feel like there may be people thinking this is my three hours to get this in and so you actually might see more drinking during those three hours than you would if you didn't have a hard stop."

Martha Gens is on the board of umbrella group Football Supporters Europe and runs a prominent Portuguese fan association. "You have to accept [alcohol] is part of [football] culture," she told DW. "The real effect is counterproductive. The more you try to contain actions, eventually they will turn out against you if they are part of the culture and if people are prohibited to do something. It is part of human nature."

Hotels are the other safest option but prices are expected to be in the €13-17 ($13-17) range, with possibly some discounts for happy hours in the early evening. Alcohol-fulled hooliganism seen at previous tournaments is highly unlikely in Qatar, given the challenges in finding alcohol and the fact that a limited number of supporters from countries with potential troublemakers are expected to travel compared to other World Cups.

Drunken England fans have a particularly bad reputation. Plastic chairs and worse being flung around in places such as Marseille (1998 and 2016) have been a recurring theme, and there was trouble at last year's Euro 2020 final between England and ultimate winners Italy at London's Wembley.

'Detailed guidelines'

But in Qatar, England fans face different problems   —  even when drinking just one beer in the wrong place. England and Wales' Football Supporters' Association has put out detailed guidelines for fans traveling to Qatar when it comes to alcohol. "Do not take alcohol into Qatar or drink in the streets. You might be sent home and/or arrested," the guidance says. "There is only one off-license (liquor store) in Qatar but it is strictly licensed and only available to residents."

The nation which has bought the most amount of tickets for the World Cup outside Qatar is the United States, although exact figures have not been published by FIFA. Many of these will be following the US team but others will be fans of other countries who now reside Stateside. US-based Brown added: "I just feel like it is almost dangerous to drink because there is no transparency. If you get caught with a beer or if you get caught being intoxicated in public, what happens? I'm not a huge fan of gray areas." 

While wanting to sound welcoming to fans from an alcohol culture, the Supreme Committee has made the rules clear. "Fans should note that drinking alcohol outside designated areas is prohibited," the statement said.


Edited by: Matt Pearson

Autor Mark Meadows

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