UK bans over 1,000 fans from Qatar World Cup
More than 1,300 English and Welsh fans with a history of football-related violence will not be allowed to travel to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup in November and December, according to the UK Home Office.
The government authority’s new measures come into effect on Friday, and will prevent more than 1,300 supporters with banning orders from heading to the Gulf state, where England and Wales have been drawn together in Group B.
“We will not let the behavior of a minority of lawbreakers tarnish what will be an exciting tournament,” Home Secretary Suella Braverman said on Monday.
The Home Office confirmed that any fans who have “previously caused trouble” and are “deemed likely to do so again” will also be barred from traveling to Qatar.
If caught trying to circumvent the rules, offenders face an unlimited fine and six months in prison.
“Violence, abuse and disorder is not tolerated here, and this criminal behavior will not be tolerated at the World Cup which is why we are taking this firm approach,” Braverman said.
Incidents of fan-related trouble and violence have recently risen in English football, which forced the Premier League to introduce enhanced safety measures ahead of the 2022/2023 season.
The 2021/2022 campaign saw an increase in pitch invasions specifically, with one Nottingham Forest supporter jailed for running onto the field and headbutting the captain of the opposition, Billy Sharp, after Forest beat Sheffield United on penalties in a promotion play-off match.
A report from Reuters last month said that World Cup host Qatar is developing plans to reduce punishments for fans committing minor offenses such as public drunkenness at the tournament.
Sources told the outlet how organizers have informed diplomats and police from the countries taking part that flexibility will be shown on minor infringements in a usually strict and conservative society.
“Minor offenses won't result in a fine or arrest, but police will be instructed to go to a person and ask him or her to comply... Someone who removes a T-shirt in public will be asked to put his T-shirt back on. There is some sort of tolerance,” said a person familiar with the briefings.
But fans who let off flares and fireworks which could cause damage, or engage in fights, can expect to be punished with fines and have their ‘Haya card’ needed to enter Qatar and gain access to World Cup stadiums canceled, a source told Reuters.
To aid the local authorities, organizers have invited each qualified country to send at least four police officers to patrol the ground in Qatar, according to a source familiar with policing plans.
Officers from the UK might be able to identify familiar faces that have ignored their banning orders, and the chief constable of the Cheshire police, Mark Roberts, who is Britain’s leading policeman on football, has said that those called to Qatar will “police it as they see fit.”
“Our job is to say ‘This is how we think you should deal with our fans because that's what gets the best results’,” Roberts added.
The Qatar 2022 World Cup kicks off on November 20, with England and Wales set to meet in their final group games on November 29.