World Cup may cost firms dear

PUBLISHED: 07:01 13 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 22 October 2010

TV Licensing chiefs last night threatened to become World Cup killjoys as they crack down on staff watching matches at work.

TV Licensing chiefs last night threatened to become World Cup killjoys as they crack down on staff watching matches at work.

In a move likely to hit small and medium businesses the hardest, the regulatory authority warned it would be targeting bosses who bring in a

set for their workers to watch the action.

Those without a licence could be fined £1,000 and there will be no way of dodging the law - even those tuning in via the internet face prosecution.

Two years ago, at Euro 2004, more than 24,000 people were caught watching football at work and at home without a licence.

Millions of workers are expected to tune in to see England play Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday.

The match kicks off at 5pm when many are still at their desks or cannot get home in time.

Spokesman Jessica Ray said: "We have a database of more than 28 million addresses, so our officers know exactly which unlicensed business premises to target.

"Whatever the kick-off time, our officers will be knocking on doors, so businesses should ensure they have a valid licence or they risk scoring an own goal in the form of a trip to court and a fine of up to £1,000 plus court costs. And they will still need to buy a TV licence if they need one."

Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "I would have thought that very few small businesses have TV licences and they could find themselves caught out.

"This could be a particular issue with the 24-hour businesses, which are becoming more common.

"It is important that employers are aware of this danger and, if they intend to let their staff watch the games, make sure they're properly licensed."

Under existing laws, all companies allowing staff to watch programmes on televisions and computers with a special broadcast card are required to have a licence.

But TV Licensing has announced that matches broadcast by the BBC on broadband will also need a licence and is planning a series of raids throughout the tournament to catch firms that fail to comply.

Millions of fans are expected to watch the broadband games, either surreptitiously or with permission.

Richard Bridgman, director of Thetford-based engineering firm Warren Services, said: "It hadn't occurred to me that this would be a problem: as an employer you would expect to be able to bring in a television as a special one-off.

"We have staff working from 6am until 11pm so obviously there are going to be matches on during work hours.

"Under the circumstances, we're going to have to be flexible - if we can let people go home early or change shifts, then we will."

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