Employers fear the World Cup

By ZHAO LEI (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-11 08:01
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Beijing - Chinese football fans may be excited about the FIFA World Cup, which kicks off on Friday, but their employers are not.

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Like football fanatics around the globe, Chinese fans, too, are all set to soak in the World Cup fever. Bar owners, managers of electronics stores as well as beer dealers can't wait to welcome money-splashing customers as the most watched sporting event in the world takes off.

But a number of employers fear that the month-long football gala will have an impact on their employees' productivity.

Going by a recent survey of 6,000 Internet users, their fears might not be completely groundless.

Employers fear the World Cup
Zhang Huiquan, an editor of a Wuhan-based sports website, demonstrates his passion for soccer by holding up a sign that reads: “I will quit my job to watch the World Cup.” [ZHOU SHENG / FOR CHINA DAILY]

According to the survey, conducted by, an online human resource agency, 66 percent of employees polled said they will stay up nights to watch the matches, and 20 percent said they will watch every game no matter how late at night.

Nearly half of those surveyed admitted watching matches overnight will possibly affect their work, while 23 percent said they may take days off for major matches.

"A lot of my employees are football zealots. When the World Cup begins, they will be completely distracted. I am really anxious about their performance at work and my business during the coming month," a Beijing-based advertising agency owner, surnamed Wang, told China Daily.

"One of my employees told me yesterday that his mother-in-law is receiving medical treatment for lung cancer and wanted a few days off. I granted him leave but later found out that he just wanted to watch the World Cup. I felt betrayed," she said, adding that she will reject all applications for leave until the event is over, unless they are reasonable.

Wang Qinglian, who works for a Shanghai medical products company, said his firm has meted out some new regulations for leave.

Anyone who requests for sick leave must submit a medical certificate and only one worker from a particular department can be on leave on a single day during the month, according to a report in the Shanghai-based Youth Daily.

Some companies have vowed strict action against those who violate rules.

A manager with a Chongqing-based financial company, said a memo was sent to all employees warning them that bringing beer to office, coming to work late without a valid reason, or getting involved in any altercation with colleagues regarding football will result in dismissal.

But football-crazy Chinese are ready to put the World Cup before their work at the risk of getting sacked.

Zhang Huiquan, an editor at a Wuhan-based sports website, said: "I would rather quit my job than give up the rare opportunity to enjoy the biggest football tournament in the world," he said.

"Human Resource departments across the country will likely see a deluge of sick leave requests during the tournament. But flexible managers can seize the opportunity to refresh the spirits of the employees," said Ou Yanghui, a senior human resource expert from, a recruitment website.

"Being more humane and caring toward the employees is in the best interest of the company. In addition, embracing the zeitgeist also gives employers the moral high ground in terms of establishing ground rules - very necessary to ensure that people are not psychologically absent for long periods of time. Drawing clear lines and expectations will help ensure that conflicts are minimized.

"Sometimes the employers or supervisors can share their thoughts about a particular match with the football fans in their company and improve relations with them," he said.