The World Cup is equal parts sporting event and international celebration — and for many fans, alcohol plays a large role. That’s been true in stadiums, and in bars that open early or stay open late to show games.
But the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is unlike any before it. Just two days before the tournament’s first match in the Muslim nation, officials made the surprise announcement that fans won’t be allowed to drink beer at the country’s eight World Cup stadiums — a reversal of a previously announced policy.
Alcohol is tightly regulated in Qatar, where customs agents are under orders to seize any booze visitors try to bring into the country.
It’s one of many cultural clashes and potential legal issues that fans might encounter in Qatar, particularly if they’re traveling from more open societies. Here’s a quick guide:
This World Cup will be drier
For a sign of how dramatic the shift in Qatar is, consider that FIFA successfully pressured Brazil to change its federal laws to allow alcohol sales in its stadiums before it hosted the 2014 World Cup — overturning a ban that had been enacted due to violence at its stadiums.
“Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them,” then-FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said back in 2012. “Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate.”
But that was then. In Qatar, regular fans won’t have access to alcohol at matches. Only spectators in the stadiums’ high-end luxury suites will have easy access to booze. Outside of the stadiums, fans can still drink at special World Cup gathering spaces, or at specially licensed restaurants, bars, and hotels around the country.
In general, the public consumption of alcohol is illegal in Qatar — an offense that can bring up to six months in prison and a fine of more than $800, according to the Library of Congress. Anyone smuggling alcohol into the country can face up to three years in prison, the agency said.