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Wales fan party off over late alcohol rule change

BBC News logo BBC News 11/24/2022
Spectators celebrated as a Gareth Bale penalty meant Wales drew against USA © Getty Images Spectators celebrated as a Gareth Bale penalty meant Wales drew against USA

A World Cup party has been cancelled after Qatari authorities "imposed" late changes to restrict alcohol sales.

Fan charity Gol Cymru had held successful parties either side of Wales' opening fixture against the USA.

The organisers had planned a second round for Friday's game with Iran, which kicks off at 1pm local time.

But they say they were told at the last minute of new conditions preventing alcohol sales before noon, leading to them scrapping the pre-match event.

The event was due to be held at the InterContinental Doha hotel, in the West Bay area of the city.

The Wales Football Supporters' Association's fan embassy later noted that Friday is a holy day and "no alcohol before midday" is allowed.

Qatar is three hours ahead of the UK, and Wales' crunch group B fixture against Iran starts at 10:00 GMT at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.

The sale of alcohol to fans at World Cup stadiums in Qatar was banned two days before the tournament began, although with an exception made for corporate spectators.

The UK Foreign Office said it is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public in Qatar, with alcohol available at designated places including hotels.

Gol Cymru fundraiser and organiser Leigh James told fans in an email: "The hotel have been in discussions with the Qatari authorities overnight and unfortunately, as it is with Qatar, a change has been imposed and we can now no longer serve alcohol before midday Friday.

'Things are totally out of my control'

"Therefore we have had to take the decision to cancel the pre-match event and offer you two options."

These options include attending a post-match party on Friday, or a pre-match party on November 29 before the final group B game with England, which kicks off at 10pm local time (19:00 GMT).

Mr James added: "Once again on behalf of the hotel I apologise, however I have learnt that in Qatar to always expect the unexpected.

"Please understand this is Qatar and many things are totally out of my control, I am frustrated as the next person when they make last-minute decisions."

Paul Corkrey, from the Wales Football Supporters' Association (FSA), said the pre-match party was a "great place" for people to congregate ahead of the 1-1 draw with the USA on Monday and fans were "pretty sensible" travelling to the game.

He said it was "disappointing" to hear the changes imposed on Friday's pre-match event.

"There's one thing about it - they are consistent, they consistently change the rules," he said.

"There's not a lot we can do, really, just say that we're disappointed really.

"A lot of fans are by themselves, in ones or twos, and they go to these things for company and be with their friends or to meet new people."

Mr Corkrey said fans are "having a great time everywhere else", adding: "It's such a shame as the facilities, the place, the weather, the fact you can see three or four games in a day is positive.

"But they keep doing negative things now and then."

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