Motives for regulation of beverage alcohol are numerous. As the reader knows health concerns, economics and political expediency have often played a role in the development of alcohol consumption policy. Religion and moral imperatives have always played a major part in attempts to tame the demon rum in the United States and abroad. It’s interesting to see, from these far off shores, how these forces effect alcohol regulatory policy abroad and for the purpose of this short blog post, in particular Qatar.

The reader is probably aware of the sports body termed FIFA. If not, FIFA it is the international governing body of football (soccer) that manages the World Cup tournament, the most viewed sporting event in the world. Five billion people are expected to tune in to the 2022 event being held in Qatar with over 1.5 million people in actual attendance. For alcohol beverage companies the event represents huge brand exposure and advertising opportunities as well as actual sales at the event itself. Of course, from these bloggers’ perspective the most interesting element of this massive event is the alcohol regulatory policies of the host country and their abutment against economic interests of sponsors and visitors to the event.

Qatar is a Muslim country following Islamic law and as generally known, alcohol possession and consumption, among other things, is strictly prohibited. Interestingly, Qatar is more liberal in its alcohol policy than its neighbors and does make an exception for foreigners residing in country. As this year’s host nation of the World Cup, additional exceptions are being granted for those attending the event.

First, Qatar’s alcohol regulatory framework is strict. It is absolutely illegal to import alcohol into the country and Qatari citizens are prohibited from consuming alcohol. For expats, drinking or being drunk in public is illegal and an expat who commits these offenses faces harsh penalties including fines, imprisonment and deportation. However, expats can obtain alcohol while residing in Qatar. In the US, as the reader knows, the manufacturer, distributor or vendor of alcohol is required to hold licenses and permits. In Qatar, conversely, a special permit is issued to the expat who desires to drink. The permit is issued to the person.

In order to obtain a permit the applicant must submit a letter (to the permitting authorities) from their employer, which states the person’s employment position, rate of pay, religious affiliation and marital status. Ultimately the goal of the licensing authority is to determine if the expat can afford the commodity, and that consuming the same will not disrupt the family life of the expat.

Further, there is only one seller of beverage alcohol in the country. The Qatar Distribution Company imports and sells alcohol and retails beer, wine and spirits at only one store located in the country. It does seem that on premise consumption is permitted in certain hotels and clubs that are visited by foreigners.

Qatar and FIFA, as of this writing are still working out the details of permissible consumption during the World Cup. It should be noted that Budweiser Beer is the official beer sponsor of this year’s event. Published reports seem to suggest that there will be designated drinking areas in and around the stadium(s) but no consumption will be permitted inside the stadium during the matches. Some have reported that bottles of non-alcoholic beverages, which are permitted inside the stadium, will be branded with the Budweiser logo. When the cameras scan the stands 5 billion viewers will still see the logo of one of the bestselling beers in the world in addition to the likely ubiquitous signage and on air commercials.