Qatar World Cup rules: Alcohol restrictions, plus weather, food and tickets explained
Qatar's 'ring of steel' World Cup plan involving Turkish riot squads has prompted the UK to turn down an invite to send its own public order anti-hooligan units.
Instead, specialist British trouble spotters will travel 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 will be 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 is sending around 3,000 riot officers who will be on standby.
Despite some historic clashes between Turkish police and English fans at European matches, those travelling to 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."
Roberts had a meeting with his Turkish counterpart a fortnight ago. He explained how a priority for the UK was to point out to other nations that troublemaking by England fans at World Cups is rare.
In Russia, for example, there were just three English arrests. "I met the Turkish Commander the week before last and had a bit of a conversation with him," Roberts added. "I am really keen that the first port of call is going to be our officers, and they will carry that sway... we're hopeful that we'll be able to influence it. We'll actually be there and [can] calm things down."
Roberts says the engagement officers will act as a "buffer" for supporters, with experienced officers on hand to talk with fans and de-escalate situations if they believe "there's a risk they may be overstepping the mark". Around 3,000 to 4,000 England fans are expected to travel to Qatar for the group stages, with numbers set to increase if the Three Lions reach the knockout stages.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 Wales fans are also expected to fly out, while both sides could see their numbers in the stands bolstered by expats in the region. There were three arrests among more than 5,000 England fans who travelled to Russia for the 2018 World Cup, 15 arrests four years earlier in Brazil where more than 9,000 fans travelled, and seven arrests among the more than 14,000 fans at South Africa in 2010.
Chief Superintendent Steve Graham, head of the English police delegation, encouraged England fans to "live up to your actual behaviours" rather than seeking to "live down" to their perceived reputation.
Superintendent Stephen Rees, leading the Welsh police in Qatar, said the Red Wall should live up to the "positive reputation" they had built up around the world. With a population of less than 3,000,000 – of which just 380,000 are Qatari nationals – Qatar had no choice but to draft in police support from other nations.
How much are tickets selling for?
Tickets for England's opening World Cup match against Iran are being sold by touts for £9,200 - up to 140 times face value. Black market prices came to light after supporter groups had already warned the Qatar tournament is due to be the most expensive in history.
Cybersecurity company NordVPN has now warned fans they are risking leaving their plans "in tatters" by buying up tickets illegally on resale websites. The firm claims a £65 ticket for England versus Iran on November 21 was being listed on the Stubhub site for $10,217 (£9,200) this week.
StubHub, Viagogo, Ticombo and Sports Events 365 are all said to be selling tickets for the tournament despite a Fifa ban on unauthorised resales. "England matches are in huge demand on these platforms, with most tickets on sale for several thousand pounds, and the most expensive listed for more than 140 times their face value," NordVPN says.
Concern over black market prices comes after campaigners had already warned over total package prices for those able to secure even the cheapest tickets directly from Fifa.
Matt Willis, who works with the Football Supporters Association, told Telegraph Sport how the most dedicated England regulars can expect their total trip to cost £7,000 if the team reaches the third/fourth play-off or even final. To put the scale of costs into context, he explained he had spent just £1,000 watching England in Russia at the group stages.
Over the summer, the main headache for fans booking their stays had been strict rules around accommodation which mean those travelling to Doha must book via a centralised portal after obtaining their ticket. Some had complained that the cheapest rooms available via the system are 200 US dollars (£160) a night.
However, Qatar's Supreme Committee said in a recent press conference that budget accommodation was still being made available - with more than 30,000 rooms released in a week.
"The SC has reserved a wide range of accommodation for fans to choose from - including hotels, cruise ships, apartments, villas, cabins or tents in the fan village," said a briefing note shared with Telegraph Sport. "The cheapest apartments and holiday villas start from as little as $80 per room/per night, based on two-person occupancy. Fans will also be able to try our unique, prestige accommodation – like cruise ship hotels – for affordable prices, starting at just $175 per night."
NordVPN says seats were available on resale websites across all group games and the knockout stages of the tournament — including the final where one ticket was listed for a staggering £18,397.
Fifa, however, has warned tickets from unauthorised sites will not be accepted. In its terms and conditions, football’s governing body states: “Tickets obtained from any source that is not expressly authorised by Fifa are not valid and will not be accepted”.
Is anyone banned from travelling to Qatar?
Yes, the UK Government has announced that 1,300 convicted hooligans will not be allowed to go to 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 fail to comply and subsequently attempt to travel to Qatar during a period between November 10 and December 19, could face a six-month prison sentence and an unlimited fine.
What are the rules about alcohol in Qatar?
Qatar's World Cup chief Nasser Al Khater has confirmed drunk fans will be sent to an area to sober up if they create an unsafe environment.
"There are plans in place for people to sober up if they've been drinking excessively," he told Sky Sports.
"It's a place to make sure that they keep themselves safe, they're not harmful to anybody else."
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.
Away from the grounds, fans looking for a drink during the World Cup will have two main areas to do so:
At the Arcadia festival stage (location TBC), where alcohol will be served from 10am to 5am
At the official fanzones along the seafront Corniche, where alcohol will be served from 6.30pm to 1am.
Announcements in recent weeks mark a significant relaxation of the rules in Qatar. During the 2019 Fifa Club World Cup, which took place in Doha and was won by Liverpool, supporters were able to consume alcohol in a site just outside the city.
Importation of alcohol into Qatar via duty free is banned. Alcohol is usually available to tourists over the age of 21 only in licensed restaurants and bars. 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.
How much will drinks cost?
Pints of beer in Doha normally cost between £12 and £15, with the Islamic country adding sin taxes to alcohol.
However, World Cup organisers are thought to be working on happy-hour deals which will potentially halve the prices of a pint between 5pm and 7pm.
When is the World Cup?
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.
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.
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.
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 December 18.
What are the Covid protocols?
Qatar has doubled down on its Covid testing regime for the World Cup finals in November with all fans forced to take a test before arriving, and players and officials required to prove they are negative with tests every two days.
Fans at the World Cup finals and all visitors to Qatar for the tournament will have to download the government’s Ehteraz app to their smartphones on arrival. They will be required to prove a negative test and their Covid status will be loaded on the app which will be required to enter public buildings and stadiums.
It means that visitors will need at least three apps to access games and transport. As well as Ehteraz, the organisers will require visitors to download the Hayya app. This will work as their visa for entry, their identification card, access to free medical treatment if required, and also allow them to use public transport including the newly built metro in Doha for free. In addition, there will be a Fifa app where tickets for games are stored.
What will it be like 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.