Why Qatar hosting the World Cup in winter is good and bad news for fans

·6-min read
why Qatar hosting World Cup 202 in winter - AP
why Qatar hosting World Cup 202 in winter - AP

The families of England’s players will be given a World Cup debrief as they consider whether or not to travel to Qatar.

Hosted by the Football Association at Wembley, ahead of the final warm-up game against Germany, the families will be run through all of the logistics of travelling to and staying in the Gulf state.

The debrief comes less than a week after Jordan Henderson revealed that his father will think twice about travelling to the World Cup after the “horrific” scenes he witnessed in Paris for the Champions League final and Eric Dier said that members of his family no longer attend away games because of the abuse they witness and hear.

The majority of the advice will centre around issues such as ticket collection, points of contact and travelling around Qatar. But there will also be a security talk and guidance on local etiquette.

Many families will want assurances over security and where they will be seated in stadiums, following the shocking scenes in which many of them were caught up during the final of the European Championships at Wembley.

Much of the controversy around the World Cup has centred on the human rights record of Qatar, along with LBGTQ+ issues which have been well publicised in the media. But there are other local rules and traditions for families to be aware of, including the alcohol laws and where it can and cannot be consumed during the World Cup.

Dressing modestly in public will be encouraged in Qatar, while advice is expected to be offered over what constitutes offensive behaviour in the host country.

While not all of England’s players in Gareth Southgate’s 28-man squad for the Italy and Germany games will travel to Qatar, Monday represents an obvious opportunity to gather families together.

Speaking about his father’s situation, Henderson said: “My dad said after the Champions League final that was him done. When it gets closer to the World Cup … there’s a lot of security elements and things that are going on in Qatar that I’m sure will make people more safe. But when you’ve had those experiences, sometimes you think: ‘Is it worth risking it?’ We will have to see closer to the time.”

Tottenham Hotspur defender Dier said: “My family would never go to an away game nowadays because of it and that’s a shame that I feel too uncomfortable for them to go. This has been for years. My Mum has not been to an away game.

“She would love to but I would be worried about it, and that’s crazy, isn’t it? All of our families go through it. Every player’s parents have been watching them since they were kids and have gone through that kind of stuff.”

When is it?

The 22nd Fifa World Cup starts with the hosts Qatar taking on Ecuador in the Group A opener on Sunday, November 20 2022 and ends four weeks later on Sunday, December 18 2022.

In the 92 years since the inaugural 13-team World Cup 1930 in Uruguay, there has been no more contentious host than Qatar, a country of 2.9 million people, with a highly worrying record on migrant worker safety and a climate so hot in the tournament's usual quadrennial slot that it has forced a disruptive switch to the first ever winter World Cup.

Why winter not summer?

For the first time in the tournament's history, it will not take place during the European summer, between domestic league seasons, and will necessitate a mid-season hiatus for elite domestic and continental competition. The extremely controversial bidding process undertaken in 2010 to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar respectively, is the sole reason for the switch to a winter schedule. For four years both Fifa and the hosts insisted it would be held in the traditional summer weeks despite temperatures in Doha in July reaching as high as 50.4C and repeated warnings about player safety but in 2014 Fifa revealed to very little surprise that it had agreed to move the tournament to a window between November 15 and January 15.

What will the temperatures be?

According to the Met Office, average temperatures in Qatar in November and December range from a daytime high of 29C to a night-time low of 19C, far more tolerable than high summer heat and, indeed, the 40C the Republic of Ireland endured during their defeat by Mexico in Orlando, Florida, at the 1994 World Cup.

All eight stadiums have solar powered air-conditioning.

 Al Bayt stadium interior - REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Al Bayt stadium interior - REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

What time will matches be?

There are five kick-off times for the group games, in Arabia Standard Time at 1pm, 4pm, 6pm, 7pm and 10pm. For viewers in the United Kingdom these times will be 10am (GMT), 1pm, 3pm, 4pm and 7pm.

The knockout games will be played at 6pm and 10pm local time, 3pm and 7pm GMT, and the final at 3pm on Dec 18.

What are the rules about alcohol in Qatar?

The legal drinking age is 21 in Qatar where alcohol is available normally only in a handful of specially licensed premises. Beer will be available in stadiums from three hours before and one hour after kick-off but not during the match itself.

Supporters at the official Fan Fest will have to wait until 6.30pm to drink alcohol in the zone – after many group games have kicked off. The 'fan festival', sited along a 6km strip of the seafront Doha Corniche, will have the official beer Budweiser on sale only from 6.30pm until 1am, with Budweiser Zero and Coca-Cola available throughout the day.

Importation of alcohol into the country via duty free is banned. Alcohol is available to tourists over the age of 21 only in licensed restaurants and bars but being drunk in public will remain a criminal offence for which the local authorities state they will have zero tolerance.

There is also zero tolerance for drugs-related offences, punishments for which range from severe fines to long prison sentences while, for importation, the death penalty remains in the penal code.

Liverpool win Club World Cup - Adam Davy/PA Wire
Liverpool win Club World Cup - Adam Davy/PA Wire

What does it mean for UK fans watching at home?

Earlier kick-off times than they have become used to at the 2006 Germany World Cup, the 2010 tournament in South Africa, Brazil's 2014 hosting and the last event in Russia in 2018. But nothing quite as difficult as the only previous tournament in Asia, the one shared by Japan and South Korea in 2002, that featured some 6.30am kick-offs in the UK.

England and Wales alternate kick-off times for their first two Group B games, England at 1pm and 7pm, Wales at 7pm and 1pm, before they meet in their final match at 7pm.