World Cup: British officers in Qatar will not act as 'morality police' chief constable says

ITV News' John Ray reports

British police officers will act as a "buffer" between England and Wales supporters and Qatari law enforcement at the World Cup, says chief constable.

Mark Roberts said the UK delegation will include a team of 15 supporter engagement officers who will be on hand to talk with fans and deescalate situations if they believe “there’s a risk they may be overstepping the mark”.

He said officers will not be "morality police" and instead will be there to say "look, you’re starting to draw a bit of attention, calm it down" in an attempt to prevent fans coming into contact with "any other policing styles”.

Around 3,000 to 4,000 England fans, and between 2,000 and 3,000 Wales fans, are expected to travel to Qatar for the group stages.

Travelling fans will join expats in the region and numbers are expected to rise if the Three Lions reach the knockout stages.

Public order officers have been drafted in from a number of countries to support the Qatari police operation, with a “large contingent” from Turkish forces and some of the private security being provided by Pakistani police.

UK officials described Qatar’s preparations as “impressive” but said it is still unknown how well the different police forces will interact with each other, and how they will deal with the fans.

Mr Roberts added: “It’s not for us to judge whether what they [supporters] are doing is right, wrong or indifferent, we just want to look after the supporters and the last thing we want to do is for someone who doesn’t realise they’re causing offence to find themselves in a situation where they’re then engaging with one of the foreign police forces."

Chief Superintendent Steve Graham, head of the English police delegation, encouraged England fans to “live up to your actual behaviours” rather than seeking to “live down” to their perceived reputation.

Meanwhile Superintendent Stephen Rees, leading the Welsh police in Qatar, said the Red Wall should live up to the “positive reputation” they had built up around the world.

Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in 2010.

What are the rules?

Alcohol: The legal drinking age in Qatar is 21 and it is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in a public place.

Alcohol will only be served to visitors at licenced hotel restaurants and bars along with some fan zones sites during the tournament.

It is also illegal to import alcohol into the State of Qatar and fans will not be able to purchase alcohol from duty free in airports to take into the country.

Drugs: Qatar has zero tolerance for drugs. Penalties for the use, trafficking, smuggling and possession of drugs can include lengthy custodial sentences, heavy fines and deportation.

The Foreign Office has issued a stark warning on its website about taking drugs to Qatar or being found in possession: "Don’t become involved with drugs. You can expect a severe penalty for possession of even residual amounts."

LGBTQ+: Members of the LGBTQ+ community travelling to Qatar are being warned homosexuality in the country is illegal, in an issue that has sparked criticism of the choice of hosting country.Any intimacy between persons in public in Qatar can be considered as offensive, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or intent.

Authorities in the country have said that “everyone is welcome” at the World Cup.

Qatar has claimed there will be no restrictions on non-married friends or couples (including LGBTQ+ people) staying in the same room.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...