Martin Keown says ‘a dry and sober World Cup might be good for us all’ after FIFA announced a U-turn over the sale of alcohol in Qatar.
Officials have made the decision to ban the sale of alcohol in and around all eight stadiums in Qatar just two days before the tournament begins, with talkSPORT’s Simon Jordan labelling the change of rules as ‘jaw-dropping’.
Although alcohol isn’t illegal in Qatar, you are not allowed to drink in public and being drunk in a public space is considered to be a crime.
Plans for the World Cup have seen a slight relaxation of the rules in preparation for the arrival of fans across the globe, with the official FIFA Fan Festival selling alcohol as well as the nearby Arcadia Festival, which will sell beer from 10am to 5am the following day.
Initial reports on Thursday evening suggested a ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks inside the stadiums and around their perimeter, and such a change has now been made just days before the World Cup starts.
Speaking to talkSPORT on Friday morning, Jordan was shocked by the change of rules: “This must have been a discussion that had been had previously. This World Cup isn’t a secret, it hasn’t just popped up over the parapet of the last week or so.
“It is relatively jaw-dropping. It [drinking alcohol] is unimportant, I think, but it’s part and parcel of people wanting to go to football matches these days, or to have part of it to have some entertainment which is to have a drink inside the ground.
“It is almost perplexing that we are on the eve of the first game and all of a sudden, for some people in their minds, the game will have changed in terms of their viewing experience.”
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However, Keown expressed a different view on the matter, with the former Arsenal man saying having no alcohol available in stadiums might be a good thing.
“A lot has been said about Qatari rules and they way they are in their country,” the Gunners great told White and Jordan.
“This is one I don’t really think I’m opposed to, Jim. I think a dry, sober World Cup might be a good one for all of us.
“What I don’t really enjoy is the choice has been taken away from us, balance should be allowed to be had.”
He added: “It’s not such a bad thing from what we sometimes see, fulled with alcohol, fans together – I’m not opposed to that, Jim.”
FIFA have now released a statement on the decision: “Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters.
“There is no impact to the sale of Bud Zero which will remain available at all Qatar’s World Cup stadiums. Host country authorities and FIFA will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans. The tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev’s understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™️.”
Qatar will kick-off the tournament on Sunday afternoon against Ecuador, with fans now not being able to purchase alchohol in the stadiums for this year’s World Cup.