Exclusive - Qatar 2022 Chief Says Alcohol Will be Available at World Cup

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Al Thawadi speaking at the ICSS conference in Doha today (WFI)
(WFI) Qatar 2022 chief Hassan Al Thawadi tells World Football INSIDER that "alcohol will be available" at the World Cup.

The Gulf state severely restricts alcohol sales to top hotels but FIFA is expecting the government to relax its ban on offering alcohol at football matches for the 2022 tournament. FIFA has already found it tough to convince Brazil to revamp legislation to allow alcohol sales at 2014 World Cup stadia. Brazil's World Cup law has yet to be signed off by president Dilma Rousseff.

"All I can say is alcohol will be available – maybe not as freely available as some other countries but it will be available," Al Thawadi, general secretary of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, told INSIDER at the International Sport Security Conference in Doha on Wednesday.

"What’s most important is that everybody who comes to the World Cup will be able to have a great time and experience the Arabic and Qatari culture whilst at the same time enjoying themselves.

He added: "We do have plans, the plans are in the pipeline and as we go along more clarity will be provided to people."

Qatar 2022 officials will be discussing the issue with FIFA in the coming months. FIFA is keen to protect the commercial rights of its top tier partners who include Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch InBev. The brewer recently expanded its deal with FIFA to include sponsorship of Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022.

Sir Dave Richards, chairman of the English Premier League, made some controversial remarks about the issue, saying Qatar had their "heads in the sand" in displaying a lack of certainty over alcohol sales at the World cup.

"There’s got to be a lot of work over the next ten years about our cultures. You have one in the Gulf and you won the World Cup and we wish you every success," he told delegates attending a panel session that included Jordan's FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.

"There is another thing beyond just playing the game. You’ve got thousands and thousands of fans to consider. In our country and Germany, we have a culture and we call it 'we’d like to go for a pint. And that pint is a pint of beer'," he added.

Legacy, Security at “Forefront” of 2022 Planning

In comments to INSIDER about Qatar 2022 progress, Al Thawadi claimed the initial phase of preparations were on track thanks to a good first year of planning.

Al Thawadi would not
Football executives are among the delegates gathered at the two-day Doha conference (WFI)
comment directly on the troubles facing Brazil 2014 preparations but stated that Qatar would be meticulously planning its own tournament every step of the way.

“I’m aware of the problems [in Brazil], though I’m not heavily involved in them so my comments are from a 30,000-mile viewpoint," he said, "but I think that one of the most important things is to ensure that all the stakeholders are represented and there’s a body that includes all the stakeholders that allows for an efficient and quick decision-making process.”

“Also it’s never too early to plan. Before starting to build, before starting to promise is to start the planning. Right now we’re in the process of finalising our plans," he added.

Al Thawadi also went on to speak about the latest visit from a FIFA delegation to inspect World Cup plans in the Gulf state.

“FIFA was here last month and I’m glad to say their impression was very positive, they’ve seen a lot of the facilities that are already in place such as the National Convention Centre," he said.

“They’ve seen the plans for the other facilities to be put in place but most of all they’ve seen our commitment steps to making this World Cup the ‘amazing’ World Cup we’ve always promised.”

Legacy and security are at the “forefront” of Qatar 2022, according to Al Thawadi, who reeled off a list of committees already established to set out a masterplanning schedule, as well as committees dedicated to ensuring it was a secure tournament and had a lasting legacy.

Al Thawadi also promised that soon the world would learn of the major steps being taken by Qatar over the next few years as the oil-rich nation undertakes a huge infrastructure project.

“We’ve also set out our strategy – our three-year strategy plan and our one-year operational plan. Our strategy plan is broken up into six objectives or goals over the next three years,” he said.

“I will be disclosing those later as I need to finalise a few strategy details but I think that once it’s ready we will share it with the rest of the world so they will be aware of where we are going and what our main goals are over the next three years.”

With 10 years to go until the landmark World Cup in the Middle East, Al Thawadi maintained his belief that the tournament should not be called a success or failure until it was well over.

He raised this point in reference to Brazil 2014, saying: “The success or failure will be decided after the tournament. We saw with South Africa, and even with USA 1994 there were a lot of criticisms and a lot of doubts – and then both tournaments were tremendously successful tournaments so we will see at the end of 2014 about Brazil.”

By INSIDER's Christian Radnedge

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