Qatar questions need for alcohol in WCup stadiums

Qatar will not say whether it will sell alcohol at stadiums

during the 2022 World Cup, although a top official said Wednesday

he didn’t see a reason for selling it at matches.

Hassan al-Thawadi, general secretary of the Qatar 2022 Supreme

Committee, said alcohol would be sold during the tournament and

that the Gulf nation was ”discussing with FIFA the extent of it

and where.” He said the country was aiming to put on an event

where ”everyone will be able to have a great time, have fun and be

exposed to Qatari culture.”

Qatar, a nation with conservative Muslim traditions but which

has a significant population of foreign workers, limits the sale of

alcohol mostly to five-star hotels. It doesn’t sell alcohol

currently at football matches.

”I don’t see the reason for it being in the stadium,” said

al-Thawadi, who noted that several nations including Brazil don’t

currently sell it at matches. ”I’m looking at it in terms of

England and looking at in terms of everybody else. That is

something we are discussing with FIFA … Let’s discuss this with

relevant stakeholders and come up with a plan that welcomes

everyone.”

The debate over alcohol sales at World Cups is not limited to

Qatar. Russia, which is hosting the 2018 World Cup, currently

prohibits alcohol at stadiums and also in stores nearby. President

Vladimir Putin in January promised FIFA President Sepp Blatter that

it would reconsider a ban on beer at the stadiums during World

Cup.

Brazil, which is hosting the 2014 World Cup, has also wrestled

with the issue.

Existing Brazilian law forbids alcohol sales inside stadiums

during football matches to cut down on fan violence, but a World

Cup ban would upset some of FIFA’s sponsors.

FIFA has said it will sharply defend the commercial rights of

all its sponsors – among them brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, the

maker of Budweiser, which has extended its sponsorship of the World

Cup through the 2018 edition in Russia and the 2022 event in

Qatar.

After a lengthy debate, a Brazilian congressional commission

approved a World Cup bill earlier this month which will allow the

alcohol sales in stadiums during the tournament. The bill still has

to go through the lower house and the senate before reaching

President Dilma Rousseff.

The issue of alcohol dogged the Qatar bid before it beat out the

United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia in December 2010

for the right to host the tournament.

Dave Richards, the chairman of the Premier League who was in

Qatar to attend a sports and security conference, said Qatar would

have to strike a balance between pleasing European football fans

who enjoy a pint with the football and the cultural sensitivities

of the Gulf nation where drinking alcohol is discouraged.

Alcohol is sold at stadiums in England but fans cannot drink in

view of the field.

”In our country and in Germany, we have a culture. We call it,

‘We would like to go for a pint and that pint is a pint of beer,”’

Richards said. ”It is our culture as much as your culture is not

drinking. There has to be a happy medium.”

Richards, who is staying in a hotel that doesn’t serve alcohol,

said one solution would be fan zones where alcohol is served,

recalling how such areas during the 1996 European Championship in

England proved popular with fans who would drink all day and watch

the games.

Qatar said it will create such fan zones and promised to allow

drinking in some of them.

”If you don’t do something about it, you are starting to bury

your head in the sand a little bit because it needs addressing,”

Richards said. ”You might be better off saying don’t come. But a

World Cup without England, Germany, the Dutch, Danes and

Scandinavians. It’s unthinkable.”

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