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Soccer Chief Can't Bear Booze-Free World Cup

"You might be better off saying don't come," the chairman of England's Premier League tells 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar.

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Boozing is part of Sir Dave's culture.
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By Will Godfrey

03/14/12

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The idea of Qatar hosting a booze-free World Cup has been derided by an English soccer chief. "In [England] and in Germany, we have a culture. We call it, 'We would like to go for a pint and that pint is a pint of beer,'" says Sir Dave Richards, chairman of England's Premier League, who is currently visiting Qatar for a conference. "It is our culture as much as [Qatar's] culture is not drinking. There has to be a happy medium." The conservative Muslim nation mainly restricts alcohol sales to five-star hotels—and that doesn't include the one Richards is staying in, which may be something of a sore point. "If you don't do something about it, you are starting to bury your head in the sand..." he continues. "You might be better off saying don't come. But a World Cup without England, Germany, the Dutch, Danes and Scandinavians—it's unthinkable."

After some recent soul-searching in Brazil, a decision was taken to bend the laws there to serve alcohol in stadiums at the 2014 World Cup. Qatar promised when bidding for the 2022 competition to create some "fan zones" where drinking will be permitted, although given local sensitivities they could require careful management to forestall the excesses associated with fans from England and elsewhere. "Alcohol will be allowed in Qatar," confirms Hassan al-Thawadi, general secretary of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, adding that his country is "discussing with FIFA [soccer's international organizing body] the extent of it and where."

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