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.
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