Cup brings na­tions’ fans to­gether, but at what cost?

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By David Ris­ing

BER­LIN — Told they couldn’t watch the World Cup on the job, Ital­ian auto work­ers went on strike — con­ve­niently, a half hour be­fore game time. Ger­man com­pa­nies set up of­fice view­ing ar­eas to keep em­ploy­ees from de­fect­ing on game days.

Brazil ba­si­cally shut down when its team played, with busi­nesses and schools closed and elec­tive surgery put off so peo­ple could be in front of a TV

he soc­cer tour­na­ment is the world’s most watched sport­ing event, and the fact that it comes around only once ev­ery four years is prob­a­bly for­tu­nate for any­one try­ing to get some work done.

One study sug­gests the Ger­man econ­omy, Europe’s largest, loses more than $8 bil­lion in pro­duc­tiv­ity, about 0.27 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, dur­ing the month­long tour­na­ment. Sur­veys in Bri­tain pre­dict out­put losses there of $1.5 bil­lion to $2.3 bil­lion.

And that’s just two of the 214 coun­tries and territories where the 2006 World Cup drew the cu­mu­la­tive view­er­ship of 26 bil­lion peo­ple. That’s a lot of eyes not on the job.

Some work­places — par­tic­u­larly govern­ment ones — are strictly watch­ing that em­ploy­ees aren’t root­ing when they should be work­ing. Italy’s Re­nato Brunetta, min­is­ter for pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion, even warned govern­ment work­ers ahead of the tour­na­ment: “Fun is one thing, work is an­other.”

Many other bosses seem


. T Brazil­ian soc­cer fans at the cen­tral mar­ket in Sao Paulo watch on tele­vi­sion as Wes­ley Snei­jder of the Nether­lands cel­e­brates his goal against Brazil dur­ing a World Cup quar­ter­fi­nal on July 2. only too happy to al­low the World Cup into the work­place — per­haps be­cause they share their sub­or­di­nates’ foot­ball ob­ses­sion. In the Nether­lands, whose team knocked Brazil out in the quar­ter­fi­nals, the en­tire coun­try’s quit­ting time was un­of­fi­cially moved for­ward to 1 p.m. on Fri­day so fans could watch the game.

Ger­man in­surer Al­lianz SE sets up view­ing ar­eas in its Mu­nich of­fices for Ger­man matches and al­lows all to watch — as long as they punched out be­fore­hand.

“It is re­ally mo­ti­vat­ing to em­ploy­ees,” Al­lianz spokes­woman Vera Werner said. “Man­agers see it as a way to boost their co-work­ers’ team spirit.”

While the United States isn’t hooked on soc­cer, sup­port is grow­ing. The World Cup is the fourth-biggest “top pro­duc­tiv­ity sap­per” in the U.S., based on a rank­ing of top sport­ing events car­ried out by Chal­lenger, Gray & Christ­mas, a work­place con­sul­tancy based in Chicago. The NCAA men’s bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment ranked No. 1 and was fol­lowed by NFL fan­tasy foot­ball pools and the Su­per Bowl.

The World Cup is not ex­clu­sively an eco­nomic drain. Econ­o­mists say it boosts con­sumer spend­ing for things like fan para­pher­na­lia, party sup­plies and big­ger ticket items like wide-screen tele­vi­sions.

Bri­tain’s Cen­tre for Eco­nom­ics and Busi­ness Re­search es­ti­mated that de­spite pro­duc­tiv­ity losses, there will be a net $2.43 bil­lion short-run boost to that coun­try’s GDP in June and July thanks to in­creased con­sumer ex­pen­di­ture and busi­ness spend­ing on ad­ver­tis­ing.

For Uruguay’s quar­ter­fi­nal vic­tory over Ghana, govern­ment of­fices shut down at 3 p.m. or sim­ply stopped re­spond­ing to the pub­lic, as did the bank­ing sys­tem and most busi­nesses. For its semi­fi­nal match against the Nether­lands to­day, man­age­ment and unions in vir­tu­ally ev­ery com­pany have agreed to al­low ev­ery­one to watch. Dutch of­fi­cials said most “non-es­sen­tial’’ work­ers in their coun­try are cleared to watch.

Nel­son An­toine


Spain’s David Villa cel­e­brates on Satur­day af­ter scor­ing the only goal dur­ing a World Cup quar­ter­fi­nal against Paraguay.

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