Qatar is a country in Western Asia, occupying the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is a sovereign Arab state and an emirate, with Doha as its capital city. The country is a tourist hot spot due to its modern infrastructure and oil and natural gas reserves, and it is the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas. It is also home to many international organisations, including the headquarters of Al Jazeera and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The country is known for its strict Islamic faith, so when the news broke about Qatar hosting the 2022 world cup, people wondered if there would be any restrictions, especially with alcohol, because it is expected at such an event. Unfortunately, the country did not fall short of this expectation, as alcohol was banned from the world cup 48 hours before the first match. Let’s see why this happened and the effects the decision had.
Why Was Alcohol Banned for the World Cup?
Alcohol is allowed in Qatar, but it is heavily restricted. Only non-Muslim residents and visitors over 21 are allowed to drink. Non-Muslim residents and visitors can purchase alcohol at licensed hotels, bars, and clubs and bring in limited amounts of alcohol for personal consumption. However, it is illegal to consume alcohol in public or to drive while under the influence of alcohol. The regulation on alcohol is because Qatar is an Islamic country with Muslims. It is a sin to drink in the religion, so the culture propagates this.
When FIFA announced Qatar as the host of the 2022 FIFA World cup, the conversation around alcohol sprung up. In the 12 years leading to Qatar’s hosting opportunity, it has faced criticism due to the rigidity around rules–even to foreigners. But the country had promised a softer and more relaxed environment for the games.
For the most part, this was true, and Budweiser, FIFA’s official beer $75 million beer sponsor, was getting ready to dispense beers at select public locations three hours before every match and one hour afterwards. But on the 18th of November, just 48 hours before the first match–Qatar overturned the decision.
The decision came directly from the Qatari royal family and was described as “non-negotiable.” The family was concerned that excessive, visible drinking could lead to security issues and cause disruption for the local population. The decision also affected Budweiser, leading to a loss. Regardless, alcohol remained available at fan festivals and selected licensed areas.
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Benefits of the Decision
Qatar’s decision to ban alcohol was not a shock, but the decision had multiple unseen benefits. Firstly, Qatar was able to host the World Cup without alcohol and show its religious tolerance, which will help with tourism. In addition, the country can attract more tourists if it is willing to celebrate sporting events without promoting drinking and drunkenness. It also means that the country won’t face any negative press regarding alcohol consumption at this event or any other sporting event hosted in Qatar.
Secondly, alcohol during adrenaline spikes, such as in football matches, can lead to violence. This type of thing had happened in other countries like Egypt, where there were reports of violence after a football match in February 2012. When adrenaline spikes during sports matches, it’s easy for people to lose control over their actions if they’ve had a few drinks beforehand.
Alcohol leads to violence and disorder, which could prove embarrassing for FIFA and Qatar if problems occur during the tournament. A ban might prevent this from happening by reducing the amount of alcohol spectators consume during stadium games.
Downsides of the Decision
Alcohol is a big money-spinner for host countries. The 2018 World Cup in Russia significantly boosted the local economy, and Qatar’s decision to ban alcohol sales in 2022 would have cost Qatar and FIFA millions. But curiously, Qatar had over a billion more in revenue than Russia.
Also, some fans may argue that drinking alcohol is an integral part of the football match experience, and banning it could diminish their enjoyment of the game. And if fans are not able to purchase alcohol at the stadium, they are more likely to consume large amounts of alcohol before or after the match, which could increase the risk of binge drinking and associated negative consequences.
While the decision to ban alcohol at sporting events is controversial, it may have been the right move for Qatari society. The alcohol ban might have disappointed some, but most fans had nothing to worry about because alcohol is permitted in Qatar outside World Cup stadiums, so some fans avoided any hassles.