World Cup party cancelled for fans amid restrictions on alcohol sales
Organisers have sought to downplay the cancellation of a World Cup party for Wales fans ahead of their crunch group B clash with Iran.
Fan charity Gol Cymru was looking to build on the success of its parties held either side of Wales’ opening World Cup game against the US with a second round of events for Friday’s fixture.
However, they informed ticketholders that a change “imposed” at the “last-minute” following talks with the Qatari authorities meant they could “no longer serve alcohol before midday Friday”.
Wales versus Iran kicks off at 1pm Qatari time, 10am in the UK, at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.
The email from Gol Cymru stated: “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.
“Therefore, we have had to take the decision to cancel the pre-match event and offer you two options.”
These include attending a post-match party on Friday or a pre-match party on November 29 before the final group B game with England, both also at the InterContinental Doha hotel, in the West Bay area of the city.
The Wales Football Supporters’ Association’s fan embassy later noted Friday is a holy day and “no alcohol before midday” is allowed.
Event host Rhodri Williams said they had always factored in the rules of no alcohol before midday, adding he believed there had been a “miscommunication” in the update to fans over the cancellation.
Mr Williams told the PA news agency: “We respect the law here, I’m not upset, I’ll be honest with you nobody has contacted me to say ‘God, I’m really disappointed’.
“The response to it is positive and common-sense.”
He added: “I think there’s been a bit of miscommunication, a bit of misunderstanding, and it’s simple as that.
“Let’s carry on enjoying ourselves at the World Cup and hope that Wales get out of the group with England, and then we’ll all be happy.”
Mr Williams said there were not a large number of bookings ahead of the game, citing the need for fans to travel to the stadium in time for kick-off.
He said of the events: “It’s a wonderful, wonderful atmosphere. I just want to say thank you to the Wales fans for being so understanding and supportive and no problem at all.”
Mr Williams added: “Friday, can you have a drink after 12? Yes you can. How much? Loads. You can have the time of your life on Friday – just wait until 12 o’clock. That’s all.”
The sale of alcohol to fans at World Cup stadiums in Qatar was banned two days before the tournament kicked off – with an exception made for corporate spectators.
The UK Foreign Office said it is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public, with alcohol available at designated places including hotels.
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.
Elsewhere, the Football Association of Wales said Fifa has confirmed that fans will be able to wear Rainbow Wall bucket hats and rainbow flags inside the stadium on Friday after such items were confiscated on Monday.
In a statement, they said: “In response to the FAW, Fifa has confirmed that fans with Rainbow Wall bucket hats and rainbow flags will be allowed entry to the stadium for Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday.
“All World Cup venues have been contacted and instructed to follow the agreed rules & regulations.
“The FAW urges Fifa to adhere to their message that everybody will be welcome in Qatar during the World Cup and continue to highlight any further human rights issues.
“We remain with the belief that football is for everyone.”
England fans also urged Fifa to avoid a repeat of the ticketing problems which meant some missed parts of the Three Lions’ opening game 6-2 win against Iran.
Some supporters were frantically refreshing the official ticketing mobile app on their phones in a bid to have their QR code load just minutes before kick-off.
Ashley Brown, from the FSA’s fans’ embassy, said: “This issue is well documented and Fifa simply has to get on top of it.”
He added: “We’d advise all supporters to arrive early in case of any future issues.”
A Fifa spokesman said: “Fifa’s service provider is working on solving the issue that some spectators are facing with the Fifa ticketing app as soon as possible, with alternative solutions being provided in the meantime that allow all ticket holders to access the stadium.”
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