FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura said on Thursday that football’s governing body “respects” Qatari culture regarding the sensitive issue of selling alcohol in stadiums at the 2022 World Cup set to take place in the country.
“We do respect the customs and culture of the country,” said Samoura, following a meeting between FIFA and Qatari officials in Doha. “The last thing FIFA would like to be accused of is that it does not pay attention to these kind of customs.”
Samoura’s comments come after Qatar’s most senior World Cup official, Hassan Al-Thawadi, said earlier this week that Qatar was against the sale of alcohol in stadiums during the tournament.
Al-Thawadi, Secretary General of Qatar’s Supreme Comittee for Delivery and Legacy, also ruled out the consumption of alcohol in “streets, squares, and public spaces”, and that while a total ban on alcohol would not be implemented, drinking would be limited to “far-away places”.
Public consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Qatar, although alcohol is available in hotels, while expats living in the Gulf are permitted to buy drink after first applying for a license.
Qatar’s stance could lead to difficulties for FIFA, notably due to the fact that one of its biggest sponsors is American beer giant Budweiser.
In the run-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, FIFA was reported to have demanded the South American hosts lift a ban on drinking in stadiums, which contravened Brazilian law at the time. Brazil eventually agreed.
Translation: No alcohol in the Qatar World Cup … We will organise the World Cup in accordance with the country’s customs and traditions.
Asked whether Budweiser might seek compensation if Qatar does enforce an alcohol ban in stadiums, Samoura said that no decision had been made on the issue.
Preparations for the Qatar 2022 World Cup have been marred by controversy since the Gulf state –which has little footballing pedigree — won the right to host the tournament, with accusations FIFA officials had been accepted bribes to accept the nomination and reports of appalling labour conditions for migrant workers constructing stadiums in the country prevalent.
Qatar has responded with a series of labour reforms but denied bribe allegations.
The decision to hold the tournament in the winter – in order to avoid soaring summer temperatures common in the Gulf – has also caused anger as it is will force domestic leagues in Europe and elsewhere to reschedule their tournaments to avoid timetable clashes.