Whatever your view on sport, and particularly football, I doubt many of you will have failed to notice that we are only a few days away from the start of the world cup.

Pubs are full of bunting and extra large TV screens. 

Newspapers are full of statistics about the teams, or the vital statistics of the women supporting the players, which seems to have become a sport in its own right. 

Supermarkets are full of deals on beer and BBQ food, praying that England stays in the tournament long enough, and the weather stays hot enough for the shelves to be cleared and the profits to be made. 

So what does this have to do with the law and running your business? 

Plenty!  Scrooge like activity isn’t confined to Christmas time.  Whilst employers are under no obligation to let their staff have time off to watch the matches, it’s probably better to take a sensible view.  A colleague of mine told me that during the last world cup, his employers refused to let anyone watch the matches, and the only concession was that one designated person was allowed to check the scores at 15 minute intervals and relay the information to the rest of the team.  Legally there is nothing wrong with that, but what does that do to moral.  What’s more, if someone is determined to watch a match, they will simply call in sick and unless you can prove they are lying, you can’t give them a red card.  If a large part of your team is suddenly off sick, your office will suffer and there may not be much you can do about it.  You can’t exactly send the whole team off the pitch.  

My advice is always that prevention is better than cure.  A crisis can be averted and moral boosted by having a policy, making sure it’s well known, and then sticking to it. 

If you have the ability to let people watch the match on site, they are more likely to come in to work than be off sick.  It’s only 90 minutes (with a 15 minute break half way through for nail biting and complaining about the ref). 

If you don’t have the facilities available, agree on what the alternatives are.   

Can they listen to it, or have it on their computers.  Can you have a designated area for football watching/listening, so it doesn’t interfere with those that aren’t watching and make it clear that they are not to watch/listen outside of those areas out of respect for the rest of the team. 

Is there a local pub where they can watch it. 

Make sure it’s clear whether this is time they have to make up, and if so, by when. 

If you are not expecting people to make up the time, then make sure that anyone who isn’t interested in football is adequately compensated.  Perhaps suggest that those who aren’t going to watch, can leave 90 minutes earlier, and the football watching group have to cover their work – otherwise you might find everyone will take the time off to watch the match even if they are not interested in football, and you’ll have no one covering the phones etc. 

Make it clear what people can do whilst watching or listening to the match.  Is it agreed that they can drink alcohol and if so are you going to limit it.  Do people have to return to work afterwards and if so what happens if they’ve had one too many.  Personally I think I perform better after I’ve had a few, but not everyone agrees! 

Is this a work related event – if it is, then their behaviour during the football may be your responsibility, even if they are off site. 

You might also want to caution people about being too aggressive in their support – we are a multi-cultural society and so your offices are likely to be filled with people from all different nationalities or with friends or family from other countries.  Good humoured office banter should not be discouraged, but it can easily cross the line into jingoism and it’s important to remind people what is acceptable and what is not.   For example, hanging out the St George’s flag might be patriotic, tearing down all other flags, stomping on them and burning them might possibly have crossed a line.

Of course, you can call me in to referee for you, by drafting you a quick football supporting policy, and give some advice on how to handle the types of situation that are likely to arise such as people who have had too much to drink, or foolishly believed that the referee didn’t need glasses.

Having said that, don’t bother asking me who I think is going to win – I’m still hanging on to the possibility that England may be successful, but I’m an eternal optimist! 

Kleyman & Co Solicitors.  The full service law firm.  Keeping you on side.