Lager-loving soccer fans have something to cheer about. Qatar—a conservative Arab nation on the Persian Gulf—is reportedly nearing a deal that would see the price of alcohol brought down, and its availability relaxed ahead of the FIFA World Cup tournament it will host in 2022.
But Qatari officials want British fans to “bridge the cultural gap” and avoid boorish behavior. The Guardian reported they are particularly worried about cruise ships turning into “booze cruises,” should the England national team qualify.
Nasser al-Khater, head of the 2022 tournament, pointed to the anti-social behavior of England fans in Porto, Portugal this past summer—where they chucked glass bottles at police, shut down traffic, and more.
Still, Khater acknowledged that the availability of alcohol and the price of it are an issue for fans, given the popularity of drinking at tournaments. “We are looking at finding ways to reduce the price of alcohol,” he said.
At the moment, tourists can buy alcohol from licensed hotels for roughly 50 riyals ($13.73) a beer, of which there are about 40 in the country. There’s also one sole liquor store in Qatar, but to shop there you must be a non-Muslim resident and possess a permit. The more than one million tourists expected to turn up for the event would not meet the requirements under current rules.
It’s not clear yet how much prices would come down. Qatar in July cut the price of booze at its sole liquor store by about 30%, but that reduction was far less than the 100% hike on alcohol and a range of goods that took effect Jan. 1.
Apart from prices, Qatar will reportedly extend the length of happy hours at hotels and will soon announce more spots where soccer fans can purchase liquor.
Khater said Qatari officials are cooperating with security officials in England and elsewhere to best understand how to manage soccer fans. Qatar previously signed agreements with the UK for managing security, and to set up a national force to police soccer stadiums. Now all that’s left is for England to qualify for the tournament.