World Cup should get registers ringing, but beware the over-tired employee

The World Cup is set to bring in over $880 million for Australian businesses, but entrepreneurs need to be wary of falling productivity as absentee rates rise and tired workers battle to cope with late-night viewing patterns.

Australian retailers, merchandisers, football organisations and bookmakers are set to collect the most during the 2010 FIFA World Cup that starts tomorrow in South Africa, according to a business information analyst at IBISWorld.

According to the research, the average Australian will spend $40.05 and one million people will buy a merchandise item, which will pump $884.2 million into Australia’s economy.

Clothing retailers can expect around $85 million spent on garments for the event, which will boost the overall spend on Australian clothing by 8.5% in June and July, IBIS predicts.

Television and electrical goods retailers are expected to have a 4% cent or $10 million increase in revenue during the event, with DVD and hard-drive recorders and TiVo device sales increasing because many of the games will be broadcast late in Australia.

Australians are also set to bet $104.6 million with sports betting businesses despite the predictions the Socceroos are unlikely to get past the Group Stage and are on long odds (66-1) to win the tournament.

“Football fever will be used to promote everything from breakfast cereals to deodorant,” IBISWorld general manager Robert Bryant says.

“Non-clothing merchandise including Socceroos branding to generate sales is forecast to attract an additional $300 million in revenue, or 3% of Australia’s overall monthly retail spend.”

In 2006, around 60% of Australians, 13 million people, watched the World Cup and Bryant estimates this year’s audiences will be even bigger.

“The 2010 World FIFA World Cup audience will be greater on the back of success of the A-League, grassroots soccer programs and Socceroos’ results in recent years,” he says.

But with the games being aired at all hours through the night, this could mean decreased productivity and potential occupational health and safety issues for some businesses whose staff stay up or take time off to watch the Socceroos.

In particular, especially for Australia’s match against Serbia at 4:30am on Thursday, June 24, and the final match which airs at 4:30am on Monday, July 12.

International research has shown that productivity of staff is compromised during the World Cup in workplaces around the world. An economic research report by Goldman Sachs in 2006 suggested that during the World Cup “economic productivity will drop, and a football will become the symbol of our One World”.

A survey by recruitment company Europe Talent had similar results when it measured employee productivity for the 2006 World Cup and the implications on business.

In the five countries surveyed, more than a quarter of the employees (26%) planned to take days off work or work shorter days and that absenteeism is likely to be even higher, due to post-match celebrations or lack of sleep, as fans in some cases may stay up until the early hours of the morning to watch the games.

“For businesses and the economy as a whole, this translates to millions of man-hours of loss of productivity,” the report concluded.

There are also occupational health and safety dangers for employers if people stay up all night to watch the soccer says Michael Tooma, OH&S lawyer from law firm Norton Rose.

“If employees are not fit for work employers would be better advised that they do not attend work rather than try to force them to work or allow them to work when they’re fatigued,” he says.

He recommends employers speak to their staff and communicate any issues and concerns with them before the matches begin.

“Invite them to be honest with what they intend to do and if they are tired because they have stayed up all night watching the soccer they would be better not to come into work and instead call in sick or take an annual leave day,” he says.

“Coming to work fatigued doesn’t just out you at risk but everyone else – particularly in a hazardous environment,” he says.

IBISWorld predict 18,000 Socceroos fans will attend the tournament and spend $180 million during the World Cup, compared to $68 million spent by the 14,000 Australians who attended the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.


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