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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 15:24 GMT
Working solutions to football fever
David Beckham scores against Greece
England could be on television seven times
Companies which have a more "flexible" approach to work during the football World Cup will reap the benefits, acording to a management firm.

Analysts at Resource Management says firms should hire televisions and provide tea and biscuits for workers as they watch England in action.

The company says staff should be able to start work later if they want to stay at home to follow the fortunes of England in Korea and Japan in the summer.

One employment lawyer has advised bosses not to take harsh action against staff taking time off to watch the occasional game.

An understanding approach by employers towards their workers' football needs could prove dividends in future productivity

Kevin Miles, Football Supporters' Association

The Football Supporters Association (FSA) said companies could see increased productivity if fans are able to watch therir favourite matches.

A survey in January by Barclaycard revealed as many as six million workers are ready to call in sick, rather than risk missing England matches.

A mass outbreak of football fever could cost the economy billions of pounds, especially if England do well.

The survey sought opinions from more than 4,000 football fans, and 40% of them admitted they would be happy to call in sick if their working hours clashed with England matches.

'Flexibility needed'

Kevin Miles, international co-ordinator for the FSA, told BBC News Online: "The draw of World Cup matches, either in the flesh or on television, will inevitably prove irresistible to a lot of fans.

"Good management involves flexibility.

"I am sure an understanding approach by employers towards their workers' football needs could prove dividends in future productivity - providing of course that results go the right way."

If England progress through the tournament they could be taking part in as many as seven televised matches.

England's games on television
England's opening game against Sweden takes place on Sunday 2 June at 1030 BST
Their second match - against Argentina - kicks off at 1230 BST on Friday 7 June
The third game against Nigeria starts at 0730 BST on Wednesday 12 June
Subsequent games will have either early morning or lunchtime kick-offs

Richard White of Resource Management said: "Trying to ignore the World Cup is not going to work, yet we are finding that many companies are putting off making a decision.

"The smart firms will incorporate the World Cup into their business and human resource plans and will suffer less as a result.

"Companies can avoid mass absenteeism if they face facts and take steps to accommodate the football fans among their staff."

An employment lawyer said firms should start planning now to cope with workers taking spurious sick leave during the World Cup.

Rachel Jones of law firm DLA said managing unauthorised absences on match days in June will be a major issue for companies.

Managers will have to cope with "multiple requests" for annual leave because of the possible impact on productivity and safety.

"This could leave a workplace sparsely populated, which is a potential health and safety risk for the remaining staff."

Ms Jones advised employers not to take harsh action against staff taking time off to watch the odd soccer game.

"While organisations must be prepared to act on instances of unauthorised absence to prevent an occasional incident becoming the norm, care must be taken not to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

"A single isolated short period of absence is unlikely to justify dismissal."


See also:

28 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Football hooligans face jail in Japan
24 Jan 02 | Business
Soccer fans face mammoth bills
18 Jan 02 | World Cup 2002
Football fever to strike workforce
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