Britain is expected to grind to a halt on "Bunk Off Monday" as millions skip work and school to watch England kick off their World Cup campaign.
Up to 11 million people – a third of the UK’s workforce – are expected to pull a sickie to watch the Three Lions’ opening match against Iran at 1pm.
Annual leave requests shot up 13% as staff booked days off in advance. Around 17 million could tune in to see the action on TV with only around 3,000 fans making the trek to Qatar to watch the match live.
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One in 10 employees who go into work will view it on phones and laptops in secret without telling the boss, according to a YouGov poll.
The down-tools will hammer a £400million hole in the UK’s ailing economy due to lost productivity.
Fans will pile into pubs to sup nine million lunchtime pints during the action. The British Beer and Pub Association said: "There’s no better place to enjoy a game than at your local with friends and other fans."
Fans watching at home will wolf down five million pizzas, according to delivery app Foodhub. Home cinema system sales rocketed 1,769% in the past seven days, according to figures from online marketplace OnBuy.
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A YouGov spokesman said: "Nine per cent of English workers intending to watch England’s opening fixture intend to sneak in their viewing during work without their employer knowing.’’
Work absence experts BrightHR said: "Managers will have to assess situations during the World Cup where dips in productivity and employees phoning in sick coincide with the football."
Lawyers warned fans pulling a sickie could face the sack for unauthorised absence – like fan Nina Farooqi at the Euros.
She was given the boot when bosses saw her celebrating on TV as England beat Denmark at Euro 2020 after she called in sick and travelled from her home in Ilkley, West Yorks, to Wembley to watch the Three Lions’ semi-final triumph.
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Andrew Knorpel, consultant solicitor at Richard Nelson LLP, said: "If an employer thinks their employee has called in sick and it is not genuine they can investigate the case and take disciplinary action over unauthorised absence.
"If a worker does lie or exaggerate an illness or injury for the purpose of getting time off work when in reality they are fine, this would amount to gross misconduct."
He also warned fans not to go down the pub and come back to work drunk.
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Meanwhile one million children are expected to cheer on England as one in 10 schools screen the match instead of lessons, according to a survey by app Teacher Tapp.
Headteachers said England players are inspiring examples to youngsters. Some education leaders even admitted they would have skipped school themselves to watch if they were kids.
But some parents criticised schools showing the game for taking away two hours’ of lessons and focussing on a tournament taking place in a country slammed over its record on human rights, construction workers’ deaths and gay jailings.
Teachers said they would tackle criticism of Qatar at school and said some children would have skipped the whole day if they had banned the match.
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Fiona Feeley, headteacher of Warstones Primary School in Wolverhampton, said: "We are showing the game in our hall.
"It is a national sporting event regardless of the controversy. This is a chance for us to share a collective pride in our country and provide the children with positive sporting role models."
Chris Dyson, headteacher of Parklands Primary School in Leeds, said: "If my school had not been showing the game back in the day I’d have had the day off with a bad head. If the children know they can come in and watch the game they’ll come in."
Dan Woodrow, headteacher of St Gregory Primary School, Sudbury, Suffolk, said: "It’s the only game England will be playing during school time, we will be addressing ethical issues with select older classes at an age-appropriate level.’’
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But one mother wrote on Mumsnet: "Our school is watching football in school time and all the homework is based around celebrating the World Cup. I think it is absolutely disgusting."
Another wrote: "The school says the game will be shown in school but add that because of the human rights concerns they ask the kids to bring a donation for Amnesty International.
"But if they are concerned about human rights issues, surely not showing the game is the best thing to do? Showing it is a mistake."
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