Slackers, stores and sightseers score with World Cup

Slackers, stores and sightseers score with World Cup

World Cup fans Argentina
Argentina's national football team fans cheer outside the Kremlin in Moscow on June 13, 2018, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. (Photo: AFP/Vasily Maximov) 

LONDON: Purveyors of TVs, tourism and takeaway meals are banking on a World Cup bonanza while bosses strive to avert a four-yearly wave of worker absenteeism.

As football's flagship tournament kicks off in Russia, businesses around the world are looking either to cash in or find creative ways to stop productivity plummeting.

Fan passion runs high well beyond the game's traditional power centres of Europe and Latin America, underlining the potential benefits as well as pitfalls for companies.

With a record four Arab countries having qualified, including Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah's Egypt, one survey released this week said 92 per cent of employees in the region plan to watch at least some of the tournament - including a quarter who intend to secretly follow it by live-stream while at work.

Mohamed Salah
Egyptian national team football player and Liverpool's star striker Mohamed Salah talks to journalists during a training of Egyptian team at the Akhmat Arena stadium in Grozny, ahead of the 2018 World Cup. (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP)

"Other strategies employees reported they would use to watch the games during working hours, include requesting a full day of annual leave, leaving work early to watch the games, or simply calling in sick," said GulfTalent, an online recruitment portal, whose survey covered 8,000 respondents across the Middle East.

Russia's time zones mean a large swathe of humanity in Europe, the Middle East and Africa will be watching games in the early or late afternoon - most likely during the workday.

Bosses are being urged by employment consultants to avoid an own goal by fostering team spirit with World Cup viewing parties, or inviting clients in for tournament-themed events.

In Germany, whose team are among the perennial tournament favourites, steelmaker ThyssenKrupp will organise a viewing event at its Essen site and others are planned at different plants, but "production can't stand still", a spokesman told the DPA news agency.

Colombia fans
Colombia's national football team fans cheer on Nikolskaya street in downtown Moscow on June 13, 2018, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. (Photo: AFP/Natalia Kolesnikova) 

Lufthansa will run a rolling World Cup party - with non-alcoholic drinks - in its Frankfurt operations centre where flight crews rest between trips.

Despite German employers' efforts to accommodate shift patterns, the tournament will still cost Europe's biggest economy more than 2.6 billion euros (US$3.1 billion) in lost production, according to a study by the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart.

FROM PIZZAS TO PASSENGERS

In contrast to Germany, England are perennial World Cup underachievers but even in Britain four years ago, productivity was dented by as much as four billion pounds (US$5.3 billion, 4.5 billion euros), employment consultancy ELAS said.

At companies where spoilsport managers prefer to red-card the footballing extravaganza, surreptitious viewing on smartphones is the most viable option for staff starved of their fix of Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar et al.

Large-screen televisions, however, still rule the viewing roost in general.

World Cup television
This picture taken on June 12, 2018 shows a television set and accessories branded with the logo of the Belgium national football team 'the Red Devils' on sale at a supermarket chain in Brussels. (Photo: AFP/John Thys) 

"With every World Cup, technology takes another leap forward but it's still TV that stands out. With a huge majority of fans choosing to watch matches on the box, expect a bumper summer of TV sales," commented Ioannis Melas, technology, media and telecoms partner at EY UK and Ireland.

"Weather permitting, we should also expect to see a summer of World Cup parties," he said in a research report. "This should be a real boon to supermarkets in terms of food and drinks sales."

Bars along with pizza and burger chains around the world are running promotions for stay-at-home fans, while large numbers of those travelling to Russia hail from some surprising quarters.

World Cup merchandise restaurant
2018 FIFA World Cup merchandise seen at a local fast food outlet as a worker takes care of customers in Kazan on June 9, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Saeed Khan) 

Flight bookings to Russia from the United States and China are up significantly despite neither country qualifying for the tournament, according to ForwardKeys, which analyses patterns in global passenger reservations.

Overall, Russian tournament organisers expect at least 600,000 international visitors to the World Cup, while the state tourism agency forecasts one million.

That is despite expensive hotels and the higher cost of indirect flights to the far-flung venues, along with Russia's ongoing diplomatic tensions with the West plus its notorious red tape governing visas and tourist registrations for foreign fans.

World Cup tourists
Tourists pose for pictures by a statue of Zabivaka, the official mascot for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, on Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow on June 6, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

"Compared to the previous two World Cups held in South Africa and Brazil, Russia is closer to China, which makes the overall travel cost lower," said Chen Sijing, investor relations director at Chinese online travel agency Tuniu.

Onward flights to Russia from elsewhere in the world are running 202 per cent higher at Dubai airport than this time last year, and 236 percent at London Heathrow, ForwardKeys said.

"Regardless of whatever happens on the pitch, from a visitor perspective, Russia is already a winner," remarked the Spanish-based firm's chief executive, Olivier Jager.

Source: AFP/ad

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