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Qatar: Alcohol in 2022 World Cup stadiums - for those who can pay

FOOTBALL By AFP | February 2nd 2021
FILE PHOTO: Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad and his wife Sheikha Moza holding a copy of a World Cup trophy after the announcement that Qatar will be the host nation for the FIFA World Cup 2022, in Zurich in this December 2, 2010. [REUTERS]

Alcohol will be available to football fans in stadiums at the 2022 World Cup, but so far only to those purchasing hospitality packages, the contractor behind the premium offerings has said.

Despite the Muslim nation's strict rules around alcohol consumption, the announcement indicates that Qatari authorities agree in principle with serving it at the venues -- the clearest indication yet that beer and other drinks could be available for ordinary fans.

The question of alcohol at the World Cup has dogged the Qatari organisers since the conservative Islamic emirate won the right to host the tournament back in 2010.

No ruling on the availability of alcohol in stadiums for standard ticket-holders has yet been issued.

Speaking at Monday's launch of packages for the tournament, Jaime Byrom, the chairman of MATCH Hospitality, the World Cup hospitality provider, said: "It is our expectation that people will be able to (drink).

"We expect that, depending on the decisions taken by others -- we will of course always comply with whatever regulations, whatever laws are decreed -- certainly at this point in time we are planning to be in a position to serve alcohol in our hospitality programme."

November 13, 2014 shows the Khalifa Stadium in Doha which is undergoing complete renovation in preparation to host some of the matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. [AFP]

In a sales presentation, MATCH Hospitality touted their most premium offering for the World Cup, the Pearl Lounge box at the 80,000-seat Lusail stadium, which will feature "mixologists, Champagne selection, sommeliers, and premium spirits". No price was given.

Sales and consumption of alcohol are tightly controlled in Qatar. Only a handful of bars and restaurants linked to luxury hotels are permitted to serve, and a single state-controlled off-licence bottle shop sells to holders of liquor permits.

Temporary visitors, including soccer fans, will not be eligible to purchase from the bottle store under the current rules.

While alcohol prices have dipped modestly in recent years, a pint of beer outside of happy hours commonly costs in excess of $15, with glasses of wine reaching almost $20.

It is a crime to be intoxicated in public in Qatar and there is zero tolerance for drink driving.

Qatar experimented with a "wet fan zone" during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup when fans were permitted to consume alcoholic beverages at a site on the outskirts of Doha. A beer cost around $7 and supporters responded favourably.

That year, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy Hassan al-Thawadi said that "alcohol is not part of our culture, but hospitality is".

There will be no fan zone at this year's Club World Cup featuring European champions Bayern Munich, which gets underway Thursday, due to strict coronavirus prevention measures.

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