England fan numbers in Doha will be boosted for the quarter-final against France as the Qatar government has eased visa rules for those without tickets.
Relaxations to the Hayya card system coincides with concerns around empty seats at some last-16 ties and will appeal to expat Brits trying to secure a last-minute seat.
England's clash against France was described by sources close to the Qatari government as the "hottest ticket in town" on Monday. Ticket reselling websites are already selling them on the black market for upwards of £350. However, Ashley Brown, of the Football Supporters' Association, said many English-based fans are still resisting the temptation to fly out at this stage.
"I think numbers for the quarter-final will only increase slightly from round of 16," he said of those travelling directly from the UK. "Most travelling fans will hold out for the semi-final or final."
In total, around 3,500 to have travelled from England can be expected at the Al-Bayt Stadium, but numbers are significantly boosted by local England-supporting fans and expats. Qatar’s Ministry of the Interior first ruled on Friday that fans should now be able to enter Qatar without a ticket in a shake-up of temporary entry restrictions. Visitors still have to apply for a Hayya card, however, providing evidence of hotel accommodation and paying a fee of around £100.
Fifa said in a statement midway through the group stages that official figures show the average overall match attendance was at 94 per cent. However, in the less well attended matches, such as Spain's opening fixture, there have been reports of organisers letting some locals in for free at half time.
More tickets were said to have been made available ahead of the event as it emerged the broadcasters would need less than expected room. One issue for fans appears to be cost, with studies showing this tournament is 40 per cent more expensive for match tickets compared to Russia 2018. Commuting from Dubai has been popular with England fans due to the emirate’s looser alcohol and partying rules.
How much do drinks cost?
Pints of beer in Doha normally cost between £12 and £15, with the Islamic country adding sin taxes to alcohol.
World Cup organisers were thought to be working on happy-hour deals which will potentially halve the prices of a pint between 5pm and 7pm, however in the countdown to the tournament it was revealed a can of Budweiser would cost around £11.60.
What security arrangements are in place?
Qatar's 'ring of steel' World Cup plan involving Turkish riot squads prompted the UK to turn down an invite to send its own public order anti-hooligan units.
Instead, specialist British trouble spotters have travelled out for the first time with 15 engagement officers, helping "calm things down" rather than enforce. Police chiefs believe the main risk facing the 5,000 travelling from England and Wales to Doha is supporters unwittingly breaking local laws rather than causing trouble.
Public displays of affection – in a country where overt shows of homosexuality, for example, remain banned – are among the issues in which the Foreign Office encourages caution in its latest travel advice. As a result, the UK police engagement team are on hand in an "advisory role", pointing out "with a smile" where fans may be at risk of breaching local laws.
It emerged last month how Qatar was outsourcing frontline policing to Turkish and Pakistani forces. Turkey has sent around 3,000 riot officers who are on standby.
Despite some historic clashes between Turkish police and English fans at European matches, fans at Doha have been told they should not be unduly worried. "It often starts with the fans and how the fans behave," said chief constable Mark Roberts, the head of UK football policing.
"And then the reaction will often come from the police. I'm confident that the fans who are going from England and Wales aren't going to be looking for trouble. I think if we do have problems, it will be the lower-level stuff, because that's what experience tells us from previous World Cups."
Has anyone been banned from travelling to Qatar?
Yes, the UK Government has announced that 1,300 convicted hooligans were banned from travelling to Qatar for the World Cup. Every person who has been found guilty of a football-related disorder offence was given until Friday, October 14 to surrender their passports. Those who failed to comply and subsequently attempted to travel to Qatar during a period between November 10 and December 19 will face a six-month prison sentence and an unlimited fine. It isn't yet known whether any convicted hooligans have defied this ban.
Why winter not summer?
For the first time in the tournament's history, the World Cup is not taking place during the European summer, between domestic league seasons, and has necessitated a mid-season hiatus for elite domestic and continental competition.
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.
How hot could Qatar get?
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.