“I am personally against the provision of alcohol in stadiums and public places based on our values and our traditions and our culture,” the secretary-general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy Al-Thawadi told Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq.
Al-Thawadi said the country would adhere to its current policies regarding alcohol and allow those who wish to drink to still do so in “specific and faraway places from the public squares.”
It is against the law to drink alcohol or be drunk in public, and according to the U.S. State Department, anyone caught doing so could face “severe” penalties, including immediate arrest, hefty fines, deportation and even imprisonment.
The British government informs travelers to only drink alcohol in licensed hotel restaurants and bars, and adds that bringing your own into the country is a bad idea. Qatar bans the importation of alcohol, drugs, pornography, pork products and religious books and material, and airport officials in Doha routinely scan travelers’ bags.
The stiffness of Qatar’s restrictions on public consumption of alcohol are unprecedented in World Cup history. Although beer and alcohol bans are fairly common in soccer stadiums around the world as a measure to curb violence, beer has always been a part of World Cup culture.
When Brazil tried to push for an alcohol ban in its World Cup stadiums ahead of the 2014 tournament, then-FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke pushed back.
“Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them,” he said. “Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate.”
With Valcke and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter now out of power, however, it’s unclear where FIFA stands on Qatar’s policy. Budweiser remains a major FIFA sponsor.
Qatar’s strict cultural norms have long been an issue in the run-up to the tournament, which was moved from the summer months to the winter due to concerns about dangerously high temperatures. Of particular concern are the country’s treatment of women and the LGBT community. Under the law, women must cover their shoulders and dress modestly, being careful of showing too much skin. Homosexuality, meanwhile, is outlawed altogether and punishable by up to seven years in prison for foreigners and expatriates. Qatari natives who identify as LGBT could face death sentences.
“This is disturbing news for LGBT people who want to attend the World Cup in 2022, as well as for the coaches and players who would participate in the tournament,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote in The Post in 2014.