Three men drink in a pub.

08 Dec Alcohol Sales and the 2022 World Cup

Last month, Qatar’s secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Legacy and Delivery, Hasan Al Thawadi, announced that he favored banning alcohol for the 2022 World Cup. As it stands, this is the current plan for the event, although things might change. This would be a highly controversial decision, as one of the major sponsors of the Federation Internationale de Football (or FIFA, as it is commonly known) is Budweiser. To not be able to sell their product at the World Cup would be a major departure from previous norms, although it might not actually be the worst thing. Here is some context on this current standoff…

Qatar law

In Qatar, it is illegal to drink alcohol in public, or any sort of public sphere. Typically, alcohol use is only reserved for the inside of a person’s home, or at specific luxury hotels. This creates a complication for the worldwide soccer organization, for which alcohol sales provide a substantial amount of revenue. However, this is not the first time that the World Cup has come into conflict with a nation’s alcohol laws. A similar issue came up in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, as it is illegal to sell alcohol in sports stadiums in the country. The issue was resolved, though, as an exception was made for the World Cup. However, this might not be the case in Qatar, which has much stricter laws and a broader system of social conservatism throughout its government.

Concerns about violence from fans

In both Qatar and Brazil, the concerns with selling alcohol derive from fears of FIFA fans drinking themselves to the point of violence. These fears are not baseless, by any means, as there have been plenty of instances of this very thing happening, including one case where a fan bit off another fan’s ear at an England fan. This type of behavior, while undesirable anywhere, would be especially unwelcome in a Middle Eastern country, such as Qatar, where the governments tend to be a lot more strict.

Alcohol culture around the sport

It is important to recognize that these issues spawn from a wider truth about soccer culture. Soccer fans are notoriously some of the most rambunctious fans in the sports world, and are known for using belligerent amounts of alcohol at sporting events. This is not to condemn a group of people who are enjoying something they are passionate about, but it is easy to recognize that alcohol has become a significant part of the sport’s culture, and that any conversation about these issues has to reconcile with that fact.

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