RIO DE JANEIRO — The hooliganism at the European Championship in France could affect the availability of alcohol at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
France’s need to impose bans on alcohol sales near Euro 2016 venues because of unruly fans has aided Qatar as it seeks to balance respecting local customs with providing a welcoming environment for visitors to the first World Cup in the Middle East.
More than 60 members of Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee shadowed Euro 2016 organizers, including assistant secretary general Nasser Al-Khater, who said the disorder in France in June will influence the alcohol policy in 2022.
"The strange thing we saw, as soon as some of the violence picked up in France, the first thing people spoke about was banning alcohol around the stadiums 24 or 48 hours before the match and during the match," Al-Khater told The Associated Press on Thursday during a trip to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
"So that means there is a recognition that sometimes alcohol could relate to or encourage some sort of violence. So we need to take that into consideration to make sure the balance that we strike is right. And we want to make sure that Qatar in 2022 will be a violence free World Cup."
Alcohol is only available in off-street bars in Qatar to foreigners, who must show their passports. It is likely alcohol will be available more freely at the World Cup but Al-Khater said Qatar will implement the restrictions it believes are necessary "whatever the criticism might be."
Following the rampages in the opening days of Euro 2016, particularly involving England and Russia fans, Qatar’s fear is that their biggest-ever sporting event will be marred by violence.
"The issues that have been plaguing or dominating the headlines are violence so this is something we are taking a look at," Al-Khater said. "After what happened in France, there needs to be a review of all security measures."
Al-Khater was speaking a day before the Olympic opening ceremony as the progress of the torch relay was again disrupted by demonstrators. Civil disorder is less of a concern in a country with an absolute monarchy ruled by the al-Thani family.
"We don’t have a culture of demonstrations but we have culture where people voice their opinions and we see that a lot on social media," Al-Khater said. "Like any other country, Qatar has supporters of major sporting events and people who are also against it for whatever reason. … I am pretty sure we are not going to have a problem with demonstrations and protests."