Why Qatar’s last-minute flex over matchday booze is particularly telling | Football


It is a measure of how utterly squalid the Human Rights World Cup is shaping up to be that one of the few small pleasures match-going fans could look forward to apart from the actual football was a plastic cup of preposterously over-priced, weak, tasteless, bland, American-style lager with which to slake their thirst under the searing Doha sun. Normally a dry country where the guzzling of foaming shaft and assorted top-shelf beverages is not only frowned upon but largely forbidden, Qatar had agreed to relax their laws on alcohol consumption so that fans might be able to neck a few £12 suds within the perimeters of stadiums. Far more crucially, it meant Fifa would not lose out on the tens of millions of dollars of lovely sponsorship loot it receives from Budweiser in exchange for the exclusive rights to hawk their beer.

On Friday, however, the powers that be in Qatar reneged on the agreement struck in February and made it clear that alcoholic beer (or beer, as it is more commonly known) will no longer be served in or near stadiums, unless of course those attempting to procure some happen to be among the privileged prawn sandwich-munchers, whose corporate boxes retail from a risibly cheap £19,000 and upwards per match. The good news, however, is that those in the cheap seats will be able to drink non-alcoholic beer, an activity that is only marginally preferable to licking one’s own pee off a gate.

“Following discussions between host country authorities and Fifa, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the Fifa fan festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters,” blurted a statement from Fifa through teeth gritted in anticipation of an awkward and potentially expensive conversation with a certain brewery. For its part, Budweiser responded with a mildly amusing social media disgrace post that was quickly deleted, presumably in anticipation of an awkward etc, and so on.

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While the absence of expensive stadium-adjacent matchday booze is not a particularly big deal, Qatar’s last-minute flex is quite telling in so far as it suggests they have no plans to be as obsequious, servile and beholden to Fifa as previous hosts. Football’s governing body would not have tolerated this kind of blatant insubordination in the past, so its willingness to kow-tow to the Qataris now suggests it is the Gulf state’s Royal family – not Gianni Infantino and co – who are calling the shots. Far more worryingly, Qatar’s willingness to pull such a late U-turn on one promise suggests there may be plenty more ahead. Despite homosexuality being illegal in the country, fans have been told they are welcome, with a Fifa spokeswoman saying they are “welcome to display their love” without fear of repercussion. Following this volte-face on a comparatively banal issue, members of the match-going LGBTQ+ community could be excused for being a little nervous when it comes to doing anything so innocent as publicly holding their partners by the hand.


“Despite Qatar being a sexist, homophobic and racist dictatorship, he’s reportedly described it as ‘perfection’. [He] was once a LGBT+ ally and icon but no more. He’s taken his 30 pieces of silver. Putting money before principles, he seems driven solely by pure greed” – human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell offers some timely thoughts on David Beckham’s Qatari ambassadorial role.

David Beckham speaks to students and other attendees during the Generation Amazing Fourth Annual Youth Festival.
David Beckham speaks to students and other attendees during the Generation Amazing Fourth Annual Youth Festival. Photograph: Oliver Hardt/Fifa/Getty Images

I can’t match Alec Brown travelling 15,000km to be entertained by a Womble (yesterday’s Football Daily letters). I did though, in December 2010, change my plans and return back from Singapore a day earlier than originally booked, because my team, Sheffield Wednesday, were playing at Exeter City and I thought it would likely be my only chance ever to see us play at that ground. I shivered through a 30C temperature drop to watch us lose 5-1, my car was buried in snow when I got back to my local station and we ended up playing there again next season anyway, so I needn’t have bothered – Alan Burgess.

The story on Vladislav Shubovich (yesterday’s Football Daily) was greatly enhanced by there being a Social Media Abomination Twitter embed that the newsletter linked to. The popular and long-standing internet based doohickey has recently been hit by a series of changes of approach, content and ethos from management, leaving long-standing aficionados worried about the future amid concerns about impact on the personnel. Also some bother at Social Media Abomination Twitter, I hear – Jon Millard.

If you really want to STOP FOOTBALL, how about asking Elon Musk to buy Fifa? – Krishnamoorthy V.

How inspiring to hear David Beckham opine that the HRWC would be ‘a platform for progress, inclusivity, and tolerance’ for the hosts. Just like Russia turned out to be four years ago, I suppose? ‘Today is your day to dream,’ he continued. Dream on David, at least you can take yours to the bank – Justin Kavanagh.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet Football Daily – while you can – via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Alan Burgess, who wins our final copy of World Cup Nuggets, by Richard Foster.

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