Qatar officials ‘cut allowance for paid World Cup fans’

Aaron Ramsdale World Cup preview press conference

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World Cup officials have made a last-minute change to the Fan Leader Network scheme, which includes a selection of supporters from each country being paid to attend the tournament. Shortly before participants’ journey to Qatar, organisers supposedly informed them via email that their daily spending allowance was being cut.

Build-up to the 2022 World Cup has been shrouded in controversy, with many pointing out the moral issues surrounding Qatar. The Fan Leader Network scheme includes some supporters having their flights and accommodation paid for under the proviso that they chant at games and spread positive messages about their experience. 

Also known as the paid-for supporters programme, participants are allegedly instructed to sit together, wave flags and report critical social media posts. Flights, accommodation and tickets to matches have all been included as part of the arrangement, which required them to sign a ‘code of conduct’ before arriving in Doha. 

A £60-a-day allowance was also meant to be included on a pre-loaded card, but reports indicate that the money, which was primarily for food and drink, has been axed at the last minute. 

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Qatari officials have supposedly attributed the U-turn to the negative press surrounding the scheme. A message to participants seen by The Guardian reads: “Due to the recent developments in the media, we are keen to protect our visiting fans from the erroneous misinformed statements regarding fans receiving payment for the trip.

“Accordingly, the daily allowance will unfortunately no longer be issued. The allowance was intended as a small uplift on your own personal funds to assist with refreshments during your stay.”

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It is understood that all members of the Fan Leader Network still travelled to Qatar, despite the late change. Supporters don’t have long to wait until the tournament’s opening match, with the host nation tackling Ecuador on Sunday afternoon. 

Much has been mentioned of Qatar’s alcohol policy in the lead-up to the Middle East’s first-ever World Cup, with the country’s royal family pressuring FIFA into giving key sponsors Budweiser less visibility. Beer will not be available to purchase in and around stadiums, with £11.60 glasses available only in designated fan parks. 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino defended some of the contentious issues around the forthcoming tournament in an eyebrow-raising press conference on Saturday. 

“Honestly, if [an alcohol ban] is the biggest issue we have for the World Cup, I will sign immediately, go to the beach and relax until the 18th of December,” he said. “Every decision we take at this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA.

“I think, personally, if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive. Of course, there are things that don’t work [in Qatar] and need to be addressed. But this moral lesson giving, one-sided, it is just hypocrisy.”

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