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Employers Brace As World Cup Goes Live On The Internet

The British Broadcasting Corporation said Friday it plans to stream live coverage of World Cup football matches over the Internet, raising fears among employers that workers with desktop broadband access will spend more time watching the likes of David Beckham and Ronaldinho than they will managing spreadsheets or dealing with customers.

The BBC will show live online all the matches it plans to televise, beginning June 9 when host Germany opens the tournament against Costa Rica. England takes on Paraguay the following day. The United States plays the Czech Republic on June 12. The online feed will only be available to residents of the U.K., or to those elsewhere who successfully trick the BBC's servers into believing they're logging in from within the country.

Employers were already worried that key matches would result in massive sick-outs by workers mad about football--or soccer, as it's known in America. Now they're doubly concerned. "The World Cup is always a major cause for absenteeism, and it creates a lot of problems for business. But the BBC have raised the ante by screening games over the Internet," said Stephen Alambritis, of the U.K. Federation of Small Business, in an interview Friday with London's Daily Mail.

In a statement, BBC officials said they're simply adapting to the times. "Our audiences now expect to get BBC Sport on television, on radio and online--and the World Cup on broadband is our biggest commitment yet," said BBC Director of Sport Roger Mosey in a statement.