Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Qatar: Sobriety or uprising during FIFA World Cup 2022?

            In keeping with Professor Burch’s unofficial custom of incorporating “football” from to time in class discussion, we are going to take a look at FIFA World Cup 2022. The stage is looking to be incredible; the great State of Qatar is preparing itself to host the event, and is in the process of sinking over $70 billion into development costs specifically for creating a world class World Cup (Arabian Business, 2012).
            Hosting an international event, however, brings in international sporting customs. The most extensive, celebrated, and coveted pastime of the international sports enthusiast, of course, is alcohol consumption. Anheuser-Busch InBev, as the official sponsor for the event, will be counting on this time-honored tradition of getting plastered and screaming for your favorite team.
            There is just one problem with this: Qatar recently cracked down hard on the sale and consumption of alcohol in the country. It would be entirely against these new bans to serve the multitudes of fans their desired cold beverage during the World Cup, and presents some challenges for the government of Qatar to wrangle with in the coming years. 
            We need to look at why the alcohol restrictions were constricted in the first place. An article from Arabian Business helps to paint us a picture: Qatar, being a nation where the expatriates outnumber the actual locals, would serve alcohol as a “nod” to these expatriates. However, the events that have been on all the minds of governments in the MENA region are those associated with the Arab Spring, and pacifying Muslim citizens before they begin to protest grievances  (McGinley, 2012). Qatar’s willingness to appease its Muslim citizens in the immediate wake of the initial events of the Arab Spring shows its fear of political reprisal and its own pressures of protest.
Why not just make disgruntled sports fans put up with sobriety for just this once in order to help sedate a Muslim population that has been shown the power of the Arab people in other countries? Because they will not be given such an option. The BBC has reported on similar bans that exist in Brazil, the 2014 host of the World Cup, and how FIFA demanded the sale of alcohol at the World Cup as a non-negotiable point and was ultimately obeyed (BBC, 2012). Qatar’s leadership is heading towards a “showdown” between either the conservative elements of the public and government in support of the alcohol restrictions or with FIFA itself (Gengler, 2012).
Although this public grievance that had been abated will likely resurface for the World Cup, it does appear unlikely that such a grievance would become powerful enough to tip Qatar into its own Arab Spring-esque uprising. When considering the wealth of the country and its people, we find a population that, although perhaps emboldened by witnessing Arab Spring successes, is well off enough that they are willing to settle for their government rubbing them the wrong way on occasion. We will find too that the work created in preparing and then actually facilitating the World Cup will create tens, if not thousands, of jobs to keep those busy who might normally would be unemployed and have the time to protest the sale of alcohol to the happy “football” fans.
Overall, we see a country originally making concessions to its Muslim populace, only to be pressured into reneging on parts of the deal, but with little prospective consequence. The conservatives of the population may wag their fists, but they will either be too busy wagging them aboard their private yachts or while serving alcohol to raucous “football” fans to start wagging them in the streets and at the government’s doorstep.

Sources Cited:

BBC. (2012, 06 6). Brazil World Cup beer law signed by President Rousseff. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-18348012

Gengler, J. (2012). Middle East Policy. The political costs of Qatar’s Western orientation, XIX (4), 68-76.

McGinley, S. (2012, 01 15). Qatar alcohol ban could be tip of the iceberg for GCC Arabian Business, Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/qatar-alcohol-ban-could-be-tip-of-iceberg-for-gcc-440454.html

Staff Writer. (2012, 12 11). Private sector to bag 70% of Qatar World Cup projects Arabian Business, Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/private-sector-bag-70-of-qatar-world-cup-projects-482393.html



  1. This is an interesting issue, but as you conclude, I doubt that there would be any serious, government-overthrowing-protests due solely to alcohol consumption at the World Cup. I think that were it to happen this year, it could make some smaller, radical groups angry, but the government would have control of the situation. But who knows what 2022 will bring? I would guess nothing too dramatic though--as you have said, the relative wealth of the country will make revolution or overthrow less likely.

  2. This is a very interesting connection of events. It is most definitely hard to say what will happen since we are nearly a decade away from the FIFA cup. Since so much money is being pumped into this project hopefully the general population will benefit. However in a country with so many passionate and traditional beliefs maybe their beliefs will outweigh the economic benefit. They have a lot of time to fight this issue and rally if they really wanted this to be a last straw sort of uprising. Most likely beer would not lead to an uprising and yet many beginnings of uprisings seem more or less random.

  3. When you say the govt. has recently "cracked down hard" on the sale and consumption of alcohol do you mean it has become banned or more regulated? What are the specific reforms taking place?
    Also, you connected these recent bans with acquiescence towards conversative muslim's views. Who are the major actors in this dilemma--extremists, political parties,etc.? Why has the govt. only recently decide to enact some bans?

    It seems we keep come backing to this same argument relating economic conditions with potential for revolution. You mentioned that the people of Qatar are "well off enough" not to want to revolt. Is this number based in their GDP? Do we have better measures of inequality and asset specificity that Boix's model would love to apply?

    On a different note, what is Qatar going to do with is $70 Billion futbol stadiums it is building for the World Cup? They hardly have the demand to maintain such facilities--it has been rumored that they might to design the stadiums to be portable, as in they could be broken down and rebuilt somewhere else?

  4. I see Qatari leadership giving little overall resistance to the eventual sale of alcohol at their world cup. They are so bent on being an international player with influence on the world's stage that I see this becoming a non-issue once the actual event gets closer; in no way would they want to jeopardize their chances after they spent so much money bribing FIFA to let them host the tournament. In fact, I see Qatar's increased prominence as something that can be easily wielded against any attempts by their leaders to steer the country further away from western influences; while they certainly have the resources to make an internal uprising a marginal possibility, their heightened status as an international actor is going to be highly contingent upon the West's willingness to view them as a reasonable actor that is willing to engage with them on their level.

  5. I have the same question as Quinn when it comes to the part of "cracked down hard", it seems vague in trying to understand what restrictions were imposed in the aspects of sale and consumption. How did they oversee this problem, especially consumption?

    The Muslim community is very grounded when it comes to issues such as alcohol due to their highly regarded beliefs, and with all this money being spent to make this event happen it will be interesting to see how successful it is or if it was even worth it for Qatar. The fact that this one event can have such a big impact in terms of economics and culture shows how fragile the Middle East is, especially for a country that is much more stable than countries like Syria, Egypt, etc.

  6. I agree that this is a very interesting issue. Many people have commented on the internal issues within Qatar, but I am wondering about how an alcohol ban would affect their worldwide perception. If Qatar will not sell alcohol to fans for the World Cup, it would upset many international fans. This would put Qatar in a bad international light. In class we have talked many times about the west's role on the Middle East. I do not think Qatar, a country that has become prominent in international affairs, would jeopardize their position in order to uphold their alcohol ban. In conclusion, I agree with Alexander Schultz in saying that ultimately (and especially when looking at Brazil and FIFA's demand to sell alcohol there as well, I believe the Qatari government will allow the sell of alcohol during the 2022 World Cup.