It was reported this week that the Minister of Youth and Sports, Salah bin Ghanem Al Ali said Qatar’s current governement is looking for some ‘creative’ ideas so as to develop solutions to balance the prevailing local conservative customs with FIFA’s demand for the sale of alcohol when Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

Alcohol is sold in Qatar but only in select hotel bars and restaurants and only upon presentation of identification at entry.  Residents can also, buy alcohol from government-managed stores in Doha but with a hard to obtain license.

Historically, Qatar has moved to clampdown on wines and spirits sales in the country in recent years.  For instance in December 2011 all sales were suddenly banned on The Pearl development, new urban seaside / marina development of North of Doha, where 12 of the 15 newly opened eateries serving alcohol were forced to stop.  The number of visitors as a consequence to The Pearl drastically dropped overnight.

“In the hotels and many areas we have alcohol but we have also our own system that people need to respect”, the Minister said in an interview with Associated Press.

“As we bid for 2022, we will respect all the rules and regulations of the FIFA.  We can study this and minimize the impact on our people and tradition.  I think we can be creative, finding solutions for all of this.  But we respect all the rules and regulations.”

As a reminder, in the run up to the previous World Cup in Brazil, the South American country tried to ban alcohol sales within the tournament’s stadiums but this was overruled by FIFA who by the way is sponsored by major alcohol makers / suppliers.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke in January 2012 said alcohol is a non-negotiable aspect of the World Cup and the right to sell it must be enshrined in a law.

“Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them.  Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate”, Valcke said ahead of the Brazilian World Cup.

“The fact that we have the right to sell beer has to be a part of the law”, he added.

The sale of alcohol is strictly monitored in five of the Gulf States with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait operating strict bans on the sale and consumption of liquor.

The move to offer alcohol licenses to outlets and non-Muslims is largely a nod to the region’s expatriate workers, who outnumber by an enormous margin the local population and any decision on the subject has always been met with strong criticism from some citizens who oppose the sale of liquor in Muslim countries.