Both my wife, Naomi, and I have been football fans for years. Arsenal supporters, to be precise.
That, and big beer fans, too.
It’s why we set up our first craft beer outlet in 2019 – before launching a second this June. We wanted our customers to be able to socialise while showcasing the very best of our community’s breweries, and not be another chain pub with chain beer.
We also champion diversity and support the Everyone Welcome Initiative – which aims to make sure everyone is comfortable in beer venues – which is a big part of why we won’t be showing Qatar’s World Cup in our bars.
We’re willing to forgo a profit rather than support sports-washing from a country with stadia built on the blood of migrant workers, run by a state whose officials think that being gay is ‘a damage in the mind’.
We would like it if other businesses followed suit. FIFA as an organisation is dependent on money coming in, and its sponsors being happy. If we react en masse, we can make them take notice that this is not OK.
As a company, we’re very positive about football.
We sponsor our local club, Maidenhead United FC, and often host plenty of fans and keen beer drinkers whenever one of their matches is on.
We make our spaces feel like a place for conversation and making new friends, where it feels like you’re drinking a beer in someone’s living room.
In both of our spaces, we have screens rotating the venue’s latest news, events and beer reviews. As well as showing the Men’s Euros the previous summer, we screened the UEFA Women’s Euros in both locations, which as a tournament did so much for women and LGBTQ+ people in sport.
For those matches, we ended up being packed with locals, fans and newbies alike. It was really special, and of course made us some good money.
The messaging of this tournament couldn’t be further from that. Where that was real progress, this is a step backwards.
To openly platform a nation that was voted as one of the worst places to live if you’re homosexual goes against everything we believe in.
Truthfully, this World Cup crept up on us. We’d heard rumblings of human rights abuses in Qatar from various news outlets and Amnesty International, but hadn’t spent hours and hours researching it. It was more like background noise, at first.
It wasn’t until three weeks ago in an events planning meeting that we discussed the possibility of broadcasting it – but it just didn’t sit right with us, so we released a statement to our social channels with our decision to ban it from our venues. Even if England made the finals.
To put it into perspective, last February, it was reported that an estimated 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it won hosting rights a decade ago – with reports of horrific working and living conditions. An Amnesty report stated that some were subject to forced labour, with misleading salaries and often no compensation for loved ones if they died at work.
Qatari laws impose male guardianship rules too, meaning that women can’t make independent decisions – having to seek permission to get married, study, travel and even when it comes to accessing contraception. They need a marriage certificate to access reproductive health care, and get STI checks, too.
Sex outside of marriage could get you seven years in prison, with Muslims subject to stoning or flogging. Female employment rate is around half that of men, too.
Homosexuality is a crime in Qatar, with up to seven years in prison – and even death if you’re Muslim, under Sharia law.
And, the Qataris seem to care as little about equality as they do the environment. Over 1.2million international visitors are expected to visit Qatar, with an expected devastating impact on the planet – and much of its infrastructure unfinished, or not fit for purpose.
Still, the nation is set to add $17billion to its economy – but they certainly won’t make any profit from us. They’re hoping to improve their reputation using sport, but we won’t watch them do it.
Why would we support a nation who sees women, or the LGBTQ+ community as lesser? A nation with blood on its hands, just to make some profit from people who want to watch the footie?
Amazingly, we’ve had a great response from our locals – with only positive feedback so far, which is so comforting.
Still, we understand that some of our regulars will still be watching it, as it’s been part of their lives and pub culture for years – just that it won’t be with us. We’re not going to judge them, as we’ll still be checking the scores, but we ask for no judgement in return.
We just can’t support the competition – and hopefully people can respect our decision.
Like beer, football should be for everyone – but in Qatar, it’s not. And that’s not something we can raise a pint to.
As told to Emmie Harrison-West
For more information on A Hoppy Place, voted the UK’s best independent craft beer retailer in 2021 as well as Slough Windsor and Maidenhead CAMRA pub of the year for 2021 and 2022, visit: https://ahoppyplace.co.uk/