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Football fans ‘will be allowed to drink’ alcohol if Saudi Arabia is successful in its unpopular bid to host the 2034 World Cup, sources have claimed.

The Muslim-majority country outlaws the sale and consumption of alcohol, but could allow booze to be sold in hotels and restricted ‘fan zones’ if it is awarded the tournament.

‘It has not been publicly discussed but it is an accepted fact,’ a source told The Sun.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its intention to bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup earlier this week.

Critics have warned FIFA that to allow the oil-rich state to host the tournament would be ‘sports washing’, covering up for its ‘atrocious human rights record’.

The source told The Sun: ‘We acknowledge very serious mistakes have been made in the past and want the world to understand that we are changing.’

A fan is pictured enjoying a beer as England played Slovenia during the 2010 World Cup

Staff member holds a beer at a fan zone ahead of the FIFA World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, last year

The sale and consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia. 

Foreigners caught drinking can face public flogging, fines, imprisonment and deportation. 

But the country appears to have relaxed its stance with the prospect of hosting the 2034 World Cup, announcing it would bid on Wednesday. 

President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), Yasser Al Misehal, said in a statement released on the SAFF website: ‘We believe the time is right for Saudi Arabia to host the FIFA World Cup. 

‘Our bid is driven by a love for the game and a desire to see it grow in every corner of the world. We want to celebrate our football culture and share our country with the world.’

Saudi Arabia will be looking to avoid the mistakes made by Qatar last year after an 11th-hour decision to ban alcohol in stadiums, having previously said fans would be able to drink.

Qatar initially contracted Budweiser to exclusively sell alcoholic beer within closed fan zones at the eight World Cup venues in Doha as part of a $75m deal.

But just two days before the start of the tournament, organisers U-turned and banned alcohol around stadium sites completely.

Many demanded refunds from FIFA for ‘giving in’ to the Qatari royals who ‘ruined the tournament’ with the ban.

Qatar was also hounded for its ugly human rights record, and FIFA for the decision to award the country the tournament.

In response, FIFA brushed off the allegations, calling on the association leaders of the 32 competing nations to not ‘allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists’.

Others found creative ways to defend their decisions to participate in the Qatar World Cup. David Beckham insisted ‘engagement is the only way of making change’ after receiving criticism for agreeing to a £10m deal to endorse the event.

After the event, Amnesty noted FIFA was ‘still failing to fulfil its human rights responsibilities by refusing to commit to compensate migrant workers and their families for abuses while preparing and delivering the World Cup 2022 tournament in Qatar’.

Critics have similarly blasted the prospect of Saudi Arabia hosting major tournaments given its rights records. Amnesty observes that human rights defenders have been harassed in prison and face arbitrary travel bans. 

Courts also have resorted to the death penalty following ‘grossly unfair trials’, and thousands of residents have faced forced eviction in the coastal city of Jeddah.

Migrant workers continue ‘to be abused and exploited under the sponsorship system and thousands were arbitrarily detained in inhuman conditions, tortured and otherwise ill-treated’. 

Saudi Arabia was awarded the right to host the December 2023 Club World Cup, a tournament organised by FIFA that brings together association football teams from around the world to compete annually.

Steve Cockburn, Head of Economic and Social Justice at Amnesty International, said: ‘FIFA has yet again disregarded Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record. 

‘Hard on the heels of awarding the Visit Saudi tourism site as a sponsor of the Women’s World Cup, it has announced the Kingdom as host of the Club World Cup without any consideration of freedom of expression, discrimination or workers’ rights. 

Fans drink beer during day 2 of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar Fan Festival at Al Bidda Park on November 20, 2022 in Doha, Qatar

An England soccer fan drinks outside the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa, Saturday June 12, 2010, during the World Cup

‘FIFA is once again discarding its own human rights policy and is complicit in blatant sports washing.’

Qatar was previously selected to host the tournament in 2019. 

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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