Alcohol, cruise ships, rainbow flags: what awaits fans at Qatar World Cup

Alcohol, cruise ships, rainbow flags: what awaits fans at Qatar World Cup

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With the tournament one year away we address key questions for supporters planning to travel to the finals

When will tickets go on sale?

Early in the new year. Prices are yet to be revealed but a Qatar 2022 spokesperson told the Guardian that tickets would be “affordable for all the family” and in line with recent World Cups. For those with money to burn, executive packages are already available. These start at $950 (£707) per person for a “match club” package, which includes a group stage ticket, “street food” dining, a gift and drinks including beer and wine – while the more extravagant “Pearl Lounge” experience, with fine dining, “mixologists, Champagne selection, sommeliers, and premium spirits” starts at $4,950 a head.

Can ordinary fans buy alcohol in the stadium?

A decision is yet to be made, although the expectation is that it is more likely than not. In Qatar the sale of alcohol is restricted to a few luxury hotels and is expensive at £10-£15 for beer or wine. However for the World Cup it will be easier to purchase and more affordable. During the 2019 Club World Cup, for instance, the Qataris experimented with a “wet fan zone”, with beer, wine and cider on sale for about £5 – a similar plan is likely to be in place for the 2022 World Cup.

How strict are authorities likely to be with boozy fans?

Under Qatari law it is an offence to be drunk in public. The hope from organisers is that fans will understand that they are in a conservative country and moderate their behaviour. The sight of England fans conducting an impromptu beer snake along Doha’s Corniche is unlikely to go down well. “This is ultimately a conservative but hospitable country,” says one insider. “So there has to be an understanding on both sides that people should come and have a good time, while also respecting the culture.”

How prepared are the Qataris for trouble?

With eight stadiums within a 50-mile radius and most fans staying in Doha, there is clearly the potential for trouble. However organisers insist they are rigorously prepared for all eventualities, having attended numerous major tournaments since 2011 to learn how supporters behave at major events. They have also had a partnership with Interpol called Project Stadia since 2012, which they believe will equip them to handle any trouble. “Everything has been done to make sure that it’s a safe experience for fans,” insists one insider.

Where will fans stay?

Organisers expect more than a million visitors during the 28-day event, but with only 30,000 hotel rooms in the country they are having to rely on other forms of accommodation. Under a deal with Accor the French company will provide staff to manage and operate more than 60,000 rooms in apartments and villas across Qatar. The idea is that fans will get what organisers call “quality accommodation at a fair price” – while Qatar will not be lumbered with thousands of hotel rooms they don’t need after the World Cup.

Will it be possible to stay on a cruise ship?

Yes. Organisers have hired two huge ships, with swimming pools and spas, which offer a combined capacity of 4,000 cabins. The expectation is that alcohol also will be available – although the supreme committee, responsible for delivery of the tournament, has nervously played down talk of “party ships” and “booze cruises”. Plans to allow fans to stay in luxury tents in the desert are also being worked on.

Will rainbow flags be allowed in stadiums?

Yes. Qatar has said it will comply with Fifa rules promoting tolerance and inclusion at matches, despite its strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws. As Fifa’s chief social responsibility and education officer, Joyce Cook, puts it: “I’m an openly gay woman in football, so this is personally something I’m close to. We will see a progressive change in all of those aspects, and rainbow flags, T-shirts will all be welcome in the stadium – that’s a given. They understand very well that is our stance.”

What about gay supporters?

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, with a 2004 law stipulating imprisonment between one and three years for sodomy between men. However the Qataris have repeatedly insisted that everyone will be welcome, regardless of nationality, gender and sexual orientation. They also stress that the country has a more conservative culture and fans will be asked to respect local norms – which frowns on public displays of affection.

Will it be safe for a gay man and his husband to visit?

Yes, according to Paul Amann, the founder of Liverpool fans’ group Kop Outs. Amann, who visited Qatar with his partner during the 2019 Club World Cup, said he was initially worried about going after being invited by organisers. However, what he found surprised him. “It’s got a very horrific law on the statute, don’t get me wrong,” he says. “But my husband and I walked around Doha’s Corniche, and went to the museum and visited the souk at night, we felt entirely safe. But we were respectful of the legal situation over there, which covers both heterosexuals, as well as LGBT+ people. We didn’t make public displays of affection. But then we rarely do in the UK.”

the guardian

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