World Cup: Forcing Saudi Arabia to sell beer if it wins 2030 bid ‘would be Islamophobic’, Minister says | world news

Saudi Arabia’s sport minister told Sky News it would be Islamophobic to be forced by FIFA to sell alcohol when the country is hosting a World Cup.

An ambitious bid for the 2030 tournament is being examined by the Saudis – together with Greece and Egypt – and they didn’t let that deter them rigorous human rights review faced by current host Qatar.

Even though alcohol is in some bars across Doha, Assurances that it could be sold in World Cup stadiums have effectively been dropped by Qatar just before the tournament that starts last week.

Saudi Arabia is completely dry, which he believes shouldn’t be an obstacle to hosting a World Cup.

Asked if imposing alcohol regulations at a tournament was Islamophobic, Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal told Sky News: “Yes, because the World Cup is for everyone.”

He added: “If you’re against it and feel like you’re not going to enjoy your time and you can’t respect this rule, then don’t come. As simple as that.”

While they said the Saudis were “working towards a better future” after facing human rights criticism, no specific reforms were offered.

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“Saudi Arabia has changed a lot”

The killing of a journalist by Saudi officials Jamal Khashoggi in the Kingdom’s consulate in 2018 contributed to rights groups opposing the purchase of Newcastle United by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi sovereign wealth fund is headed by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to US intelligence, he approved the killing of Mr Khashoggi but continues to deny involvement.

The remains of the Washington Post columnist have never been found – leading to lingering questions about Saudi Arabia’s suitability to play a leading role in esports.

“Everyone was appalled by what happened and everyone in the kingdom condemned it,” Prince Abdulaziz said.

“What the government in Saudi Arabia has done, they have taken steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

He added: “We know that Saudi Arabia has also changed a lot in the past few years.

“We know that we are changing towards the future.”

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“LGBT fans are welcome – but we have rules”

A World Cup bid could result in Saudi Arabia breaching FIFA requirements not to discriminate against gay people – changes introduced in the wake of the 2030 World Cup going to Qatar despite its anti-LGBT laws.

“You are welcome,” Prince Abdulaziz said during the interview in Doha.

“I’m sure they came to some of our events. We don’t go around asking, ‘Are you gay or straight?’ Everyone is welcome. There are rules that everyone respects.”

What are the rules?

He replied: “There are rules that everyone respects in terms of our culture and how they have to abide by our culture.

“Even men and women – they’re not allowed to show affection in public places and so on. And that is a rule that we have and that we have to respect. And we have to respect the culture.”

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Will women ever have equal rights?

Women have gained more rights in Saudi Arabia in recent years – and this year launched a women’s national team. But women still face discrimination, including the need for male guardian approval in order to get married.

Can women in Saudi Arabia ever hope for equality with men?

“It depends on what you mean by equality,” Prince Abdulaziz replied. “If this is a social problem that needs to be solved, it will be solved in Saudi Arabia.”

Equal rights are equal rights, it is pointed out.

He replied, “Are women in the West equal? ​​In terms of their job, salary and so on.”

There are laws in countries to ensure they should have it.

“Maybe in some countries, different in some countries,” he continued. “This is a problem for the people of the country. I don’t think you would accept me coming and telling you to do 123 or we won’t take care of you.”

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Saudis ‘ready’ to host any tournament

There was no confirmation of a 2030 World Cup bid, with talks previously confirmed by potential partners Egypt and Greece.

Using three countries on three different continents should not be an obstacle, stressed Prince Abdulaziz, especially in view of the 2026 World Cup hosts.

He said: “The next World Cup will be in Canada, USA and Mexico and I think the journey between them is actually longer than the journey between Saudi and Greece and Egypt.

“But I think we’ve learned a lot from hosting a lot of events in the past… and I think Saudi will be ready to host any international or major competitions or championships in the future.”


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