The Qatari royal family are pressuring Fifa for a complete ban on selling alcohol at all World Cup stadiums, just two days before the controversial tournament kicks off.
The host nation – where alcohol sales are typically restricted to foreigners drinking in licenced hotels and restaurants, or non-Muslim residents with special permits in their homes – has put significant pressure on Fifa to stop selling beer at the eight World Cup stadiums.
If the U-turn goes ahead it will mean Budweiser – one of the tournament’s largest sponsors – will be unable to sell its beer to fans at games and could put Fifa in breach of a multi-million dollar contract with the company.
Discussions about the issue are believed to be ongoing between Budweiser and Fifa, though The Times says the removal of sales of Budweiser is now ‘likely’ after the Qatari royals intervened. The New York Times said the intervention was made by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the brother of Qatar’s ruler.
As things stand, World Cup visitors can buy alcohol in hotels and restaurants, in fan zones at certain times, and on stadium concourses – but not inside stadiums.
Beer will cost almost £12 per pint at official venues, and fans will be limited to four drinks to stop them getting drunk. Anyone who does get drunk could be taken to a special zone to sober up.
If the Qataris are successful in changing the rules, it will mean the sale of alcohol on concourses is banned.
Qatar are pressuring Fifa into applying a ban on selling alcohol inside World Cup venues
The alcohol ban has reportedly been demanded by the Qatari royal family, headed by the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (pictured last month)
A fan is handed the first beer served at the 2022 Qatar World Cup at the FIFA Fan Festival in Doha’s Al Bidda Park
Fifa have already made one concession this week to the Qatari hosts on the availability of Budweiser in stadiums.
Organisers insisted the Budweiser concession stands were too noticeable, so Fifa agreed to move them into positions where they would be less visible. Such changes are highly unusual so close to the start of a tournament.
Just three months ago, Fifa also agreed to move the starting date of the tournament a day earlier so the hosts will be playing in the only match on that day. Qatar v Ecuador will now be played on November 20.
If Budweiser is banned from concourses then the only place alcohol can be bought in or around stadiums will be hospitality boxes, which start at $22,450 per match. Those lucky enough to get a seat in a box are promised ‘soft drinks, beers, Champagne, sommelier-selected wines, and premium spirits’.
The sale of alcohol is hardly the only controversy that has plagued the Qatar World Cup, which is being played in the winter because summer temperatures in the desert nation frequently top 40C.
Heat will still be intense, even in winter, with daytime temperatures hovering around 30C with punishing humidity.
Wales have already shifted their training sessions from 1.30pm until 4pm because players were struggling. The latest matches in Qatar will kick off around 10pm local time when it will be cooler, but some of the earlier games will be played in scorching 1pm heat.
Qatar is also facing serious allegations of abuse of migrant workers – many of whom are thought to have died in the heat – who built the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure to cope with more than one million fans descending on a country with a regular population of just 300,000.
Officially, Doha says just three deaths are directly attributable to the construction project. But human rights groups say that figure is likely in the hundreds, and possibly in the thousands.
Workers from some of the world’s most impoverished countries have reported being paid just pence per day for their work, while Qatar has also been accused of using North Korean slave labour for some of the projects.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani (right, facing camera), president of the Qatar Football Association, stands by a Budweiser hoarding at a training session ahead of the World Cup
Venues, such as Stadium 974, are likely to not be serving beer to supporters inside the ground
Sepp Blatter, Fifa’s former boss who was forced to resign shortly after the Qatar World Cup was announced amid a corruption scandal, has even admitted the tournament was a ‘mistake’.
He highlighted a separate issue – the size of the host nation – saying the country was simply not big enough to handle the spectacle that is the world’s premiere sporting tournament.
The Qatar peninsula, which juts out from the east coast of Saudi Arabia, is just 115 miles long – roughly the distance from London to Bristol. The drive from east to west coasts takes less than an hour.
The run-up to the tournament has also been plagued with problems, often connected to the conservative attitudes of the country’s Muslim rulers.
Earlier this month, it was reported a Qatar World Cup ambassador has told German television broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality is ‘damage in the mind’.
In an interview filmed in Doha, former Qatari international Khalid Salman addressed the issue of homosexuality, which is illegal in the country.
Some football players have raised concerns over the rights of fans travelling to the event, especially LGBT+ individuals and women, whom rights groups say Qatari laws discriminate against.
Khalid Salman – a former Qatar international footballer – said people had to accept the country’s rules
Fifa have written a letter asking the footballing world to focus on the game at the World Cup rather than off-field issues which has led to criticism for president Gianni Infantino
The tournament has been engulfed in controversy over human rights issues in Qatar
England will wear armbands with the words ‘One Love’ etched across them at the tournament
SCOTLAND’S ONLY OPENLY GAY FOOTBALLER CONDEMNS QATAR WORLD CUP AMBASSADOR
Zander Murray has condemned a Qatar World Cup ambassador for ‘hurtful’ comments
The first openly gay Scottish footballer has condemned comments by a Qatar World Cup ambassador branding homosexuality ‘damage of the mind’.
Gala Fairydean Rovers striker Zander Murray decided to go public on his sexuality with an announcement on the Lowland League side’s website back in September.
Compelled to speak out after accepting a role as a sports champion for lobby group Stonewall, the 31-year-old says he was ‘hurt and upset’ by remarks from former Qatar international Khalid Salman, and has called on others to speak out on the issue in the hope it might apply pressure on the Gulf state.
‘I am now an openly gay footballer,’ Murray told Sportsmail. ‘And, of course, you feel hurt and upset by comments like that.
‘Since I went public, the reaction has been so positive from the across the UK. That’s why, when I heard those comments, I felt deeply hurt by them.
‘I can’t change who I am and the laws in Qatar are directly attacking people like me.
‘For years, I have tried to be someone else and pretend I am not gay and it created havoc with my life. Now I am being my true organic self, I can’t fail to be hurt by what’s being said there.’
The country expects more than one million visitors for the World Cup.
‘They have to accept our rules here,’ Salman said, in an excerpt of the interview.
‘(Homosexuality) is haram. You know what haram (forbidden) means?’ he said.
When asked why it was haram, Salman said: ‘I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.’
The interview was then immediately stopped by an accompanying official. Qatar’s World Cup organisers, when contacted by Reuters, declined to comment.
World football’s ruling body Fifa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Organisers have repeatedly said everyone is welcome in Qatar during the World Cup.
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup but the small nation has come under intense pressure in recent years for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.
The country’s human rights record has led to calls for teams and officials to boycott the November 20 – December 18 tournament.
Earlier this month Fifa came under scrutiny after Sky News got hold of a letter that the governing body had circulated around the federations heading to Qatar.
‘Please, let’s now focus on the football!’ Infantino and Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura wrote to the 32 nations due to compete.
‘We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world.
‘But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.’
England and Wales – among a host of other nations – plan to wear rainbow armbands at the tournament with the words ‘One Love’ etched across them.
Qatar World Cup chief executive Nasser Al Khater last month said that gay supporters were welcome in the country but once again warned of the nation’s differing cultural norms.
‘Everyone will feel safe in Qatar,’ Al-Khater told Sky News.
‘We have always said that everyone is welcome here. What we ask for is respect for our culture.’
A two-hour queue and £12 a pint, but Californian delivery driver becomes the first football fan to drink an official World Cup beer in Qatar (and he says it’s worth every penny!)
by VIVEK CHAUDHARY and SHEKHAR BHATIA in Doha for MailOnline
A delivery driver from California became the first fan to drink an official World Cup beer in Qatar as alcohol made its debut at the tournament.
Brian Davidson, 45, was served a pint of Budweiser at precisely 7pm on Wednesday in the largest fan zone of the World Cup in central Doha, which opened for the first time amid wild celebrations.
He paid £12 for the honour of downing the first pint and waited almost two hours in a winding queue for the privilege.
Moments after supping his pint, Mr Davidson, who was at the head of a queue which had grown to almost 500 by the time bars opened told MailOnline: ‘This is a historic World Cup moment and this feels like the best beer I’ve ever had in my life. I’m going to finish it off as quickly as I can and then have another one.
‘It’s worth every cent. You might think the beer’s expensive but that’s what you have to pay at major international sports tournaments. I have come all this way. My big worry was that there wouldn’t be any beer at all so I don’t mind paying a bit more.
‘I was a bit concerned about the alcohol restrictions before I came to Qatar but I have to say all the worry and the wait was worth it. It feels great to be the first fan to have a beer at this tournament. I feel like Pele or Maradona-a World Cup history maker.’
Californian delivery driver Brian Davidson (pictured), 45, was the first fan to drink an official World Cup beer in Qatar after he was served a pint of Budweiser at precisely 7pm
‘This is a historic World Cup moment and this feels like the best beer I’ve ever had in my life’, Mr Davidson told MailOnline after downing his £12 pint
He had to wait for almost two hours in a winding queue for the honour of downing the first pint. Pictured: The queue for the bar in the largest fan zone of the World Cup in central Doha
Mr Davidson was served his beer at the FIFA Fan Festival in Doha’s Al Bidda Park which will be open every day of the tournament and can accommodate up to 40,000 fans.
He revealed that he had only arrived from his home in San Jose, California on Wednesday morning and decided to go to the opening of the Fan Festival so that he could get a pint after discovering that it was going on sale.
He added: ‘When I got here there was nobody waiting at the bar so I thought why not stick around and make sure I’m first in the queue and have the first pint of the 2022 World Cup. It’ll be something to tell the grandchildren.’
As excitement built up ahead of the 7pm bar opening time, fans shouted and hollered as staff initiated a countdown to the moment.
‘When I got here there was nobody waiting at the bar so I thought why not stick around and make sure I’m first in the queue and have the first pint of the 2022,’ said Mr Davidson
Nektatios Kassotakis, manager of the area serving alcohol within the fan zone told MailOnline that 48,000 cans of Budweiser had been stocked in fridges for the opening night and that another 500,000 were in stock for the remainder of the tournament.
He gushed: ‘I feel very proud to be the head of this section that is offering alcohol at a tournament where it has been a big issue. It’s a great honour and we will make sure that we will serve the alcohol responsibly.
‘I know this is a Muslim country with strict laws on alcohol but it’s great that fans from all the over the world will be able to enjoy a drink while they watch games in the fan zones. Football and beer are like love and marriage-they go together.’
Mr Kassotakis, who has travelled from Greece to manage the beer operation in Qatar’s largest fan zone added: ‘We’ve got a lot of beer in stock. I’m hoping that by the end of the World Cup it will all be finished and everyone will have had a great time.
‘But we’ve also got a lot of security around to make sure fans behave themselves.’
Fans will only be permitted to buy four pints at a time. Non-alcoholic beer is also available at £10 per pint.
Qatar has strict Islamic laws in place over the sale and consumption of alcohol, which were planning to be relaxed for the World Cup.
Nektatios Kassotakis (pictured), manager of the area serving alcohol within the fan zone told MailOnline that 48,000 cans of Budweiser had been stocked in fridges for the opening night and that another 500,000 were in stock
Once the World Cup kicks off beer will only be available in fan zones like the one in Al Bidda after 6.30pm and drunk fans will be sent to special zones to sober up.
Budweiser is one of FIFA’s most lucrative sponsors and has the exclusive right to sell beer at World Cup matches.
But despite the joy of fans and being able to knock back a pint many were dismayed by the price of food and drink in the fan zone.
Burgers were on sale at £12, a chicken sandwich £8 while nachos were going for £8.
Switzerland fan Marion Spichticg moaned: ‘The beer is very expensive and so is the food. I’m going to a few games and will come back to this fan zone because it’s been great fun. But I don’t think I’ll be drinking and eating much when I’m here.’
Thousands attended the opening of the Fan Zone, which has a large stage, dazzling lights and a variety of football related activities. They were also treated to a DJ spinning a series of Arabic and Western tunes and Michael Jackson tribute show.
The alcohol area was tucked away in a corner of the Fan Zone, around 100 metres from the main stage. The only break in proceedings was when it was announced that there would be a pause for evening prayers.
MARTIN SAMUEL: FIFA fools took the World Cup to Qatar and now expect it not to be Qatari! Other countries find our drinking culture objectionable and they have a point… PLUS, there’s no conspiracy over Ivan Toney’s England exclusion
by MARTIN SAMUEL for the Daily Mail
At the Westin Hotel on Awaji island, near Kobe, Japan, Sven Goran Eriksson surveyed the players’ recreation room.
There were 23 individual, state-of-the-art games consoles, one for each member of the squad, a pool table, an air-hockey table, three games of table football, plus table tennis. Next door was a cinema and space for the 23 additional laptops that each player had received, along with a Walkman, a CD player and a mobile phone.
This, it was hoped, would keep restless minds active on their way to the inevitable quarter-final exit. Eriksson turned to the Football Association official by his side. ‘Why can’t they just read a book?’ he wondered.
Sven-Goran Eriksson once asked why England stars needed technology to be entertained
Qatar will have similar thoughts about our drinking culture during the winter World Cup
We could of course argue, knowing what we know now, that the FA man might have asked Sven the same question – but that’s another story.
The point is this. There will be officials in Qatar this morning who will be thinking the same about us. Not the England players specifically, but those who follow them. Why are we always so thirsty? Why is it almost unthinkable that anyone might want to watch a football match sober?
All this controversy about alcohol availability, alcohol prices, where to get it, when to get it, how long does the bar stay open? We don’t sound very smart. It seems we are only here for the beer.
We discuss the Gulf regions in terms of liberty and freedom, and understandably so, but with that comes a presumption that they must want what we have. And it isn’t true. The drinking culture that we regard as part of the matchday experience other countries find bemusing, even objectionable.
They have a point. Nobody who was at Wembley for England’s European Championship final would consider what transpired that day desirable. It was horrible, violent, threatening, boorish and in many ways utterly predictable.
The drinking culture that we consider essential on these shores is not the same out in Qatar
And the Middle East country could use last year’s Euro 2020 final disgrace as a reason why
There has been controversy surrounding the accessibility and pricing of beer at the World Cup
The only shock, really, is that UEFA appear prepared to risk more of the same in 2028. Yet if Qatar had used footage of that day to support an argument for tightening the laws on alcohol consumption rather than loosening them during the tournament, who could really blame them?
Instead, they have taken the route of broken promises. Beer was going to be cheap but it’s not, it’s expensive – around £11.60 for a pint of Budweiser (suggested marketing tagline: Not Quite The Worst Beer In The World, Because That’s Fosters.)
And it was going to be plentiful – except it isn’t because licensed hours will be strictly controlled, sales outlets limited and around the stadium sites largely hidden.
The hosts do not like beer drinkers so they are not making it easy for them. And those hosts who were ready to compromise appear to have been crushed further down the line by the Supreme Committee. In the Gulf there is always a Supreme Committee. It is why it is often difficult to get event business done.
Budweiser will have been given encouragement by organisers whose priority is delivering a successful tournament, but those agreements will have to be written off by Supreme Committee members with an entirely different concept of success.
Beer partners Budweiser were welcomed in one breath and then told to hold fire in the next
Budweiser at one stage had a tanker moored outside Doha awaiting permission to deliver almost a third of its supply. They were being welcomed in one breath, told to wait in the next. Budweiser have jumped through hoops just to get to where they are in Qatar now.
Hence the mealy-mouthed statement released earlier this week. ‘Budweiser is proud to be served in compliance with the local rules and regulations by FIFA’s appointed concessionaire.’ And as we all know, ain’t no party like a FIFA-appointed concessionaire party.
The bottom line problem is that FIFA took a World Cup to Qatar and then expected Qatar not to let it be Qatari.
To return to England’s Eriksson years, he was unveiled as manager on November 2, 2000 at Sopwell House, having flown in that morning from Rome. Standing before the media, England’s first foreign manager wore a Remembrance Day poppy. One imagines they are not in great supply in the city Mussolini called home. So the FA wanted to employ a foreign manager while affecting the illusion he was one of us.
And that is what FIFA wanted from Qatar, too. They wanted the nation’s wealth, its growing influence, and certainly its lucrative bribes, they just did not want Qatar to host a Qatari tournament.
FIFA knew what they were getting when they took Qatar’s money for the 2022 tournament
So why should they expect the Middle East nation to alter its core beliefs this winter?
So for years they maintained the pretence of a western welcome, and western compromises and attitudes when, really, why should the hosts have to change their core beliefs? FIFA knew deep down where their World Cup was going and what they would be getting but Qatar went along with this airbrushed version of itself because, as the sign at the media centre in Doha says: ‘Now is all.’
Then, on Wednesday, when a journalist tried to take a photograph of that sign, he was asked to press delete by a security guard because this is now a Qatari World Cup and it is too late to do anything about that.
Recently, Qatar has started to flex its muscles after so much faux-compromise, which is why a beer is approaching £12, if you send out a search party and are prepared to queue.
And there is much that is Qatar’s fault, but not this. Because they don’t really want to sell you a beer, and they never wanted to sell you a beer, but it was FIFA’s price for taking their money. They thought the hosts should hold a p***-up, just without the brewery.
You will notice, however, that whatever the price of a pint, it never seems to be FIFA’s round.