Millions pack pubs and fan parks as workers pull sickies or take days off to cheer on England

England grinds to a standstill to cheer on the Three Lions: Millions of workers leave offices empty as they pack pubs and fan parks, schools halt lessons and streets are deserted as nation watches World Cup clash with Iran

  • The 1pm kick-off left many England fans facing prospect of not being able to watch highly-anticipated game
  • But much of the country’s workforce will be away from the office and instead glued to the TV this afternoon
  • Up to 11 million people are expected to pull a sick day in order to watch the match, according to a YouGov poll
  • Meanwhile, some schools have today ‘rearranged’ or halted lessons to allow their pupils to watch the match
  • Streets were deserted around Windsor and Bristol, with traffic levels also significantly down in London

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Millions of England supporters are packing out pubs and fan parks across the country after booking the day off work or calling in sick – as the nation grinds to a halt to watch the Three Lions’ World Cup opener against Iran.

The 1pm kick-off left many England fans facing the prospect of not being able to watch the highly-anticipated game today, but much of the country’s workforce will be away from the office and instead glued to TV screens this afternoon. 

Some schools have ‘rearranged’ or halted lessons altogether to allow pupils to watch the match, while traffic levels were down in several cities including London and Birmingham as employees still working chose to work from home.

Up to 11 million people are expected to pull a sick day in order to watch the match, according to a YouGov poll, and fans have been pictured packing out pubs with a pint of beer in hand.

In addition, more than one in ten said they intend to sneakily watch England’s opening fixture during their work hours without their employer knowing. 

Meanwhile, streets were deserted around Windsor and Bristol, with traffic levels also significantly down in London and Birmingham.

Congestion in the capital at 8am was 67 per cent, down from 75 per cent at the same time last week. Other cities with lighter traffic included Birmingham (down from 73 per cent to 59 per cent) and Manchester (down from 73 per cent to 69 per cent).

Fans queued before 9am to get into the Box Park venue in Shoreditch to sample the atmosphere as early as possible.

England fans gather at Boxpark in Wembley ahead of the 2022 World Cup, Group B opening game between England and Iran

 England fans gather at Boxpark in Wembley ahead of the 2022 World Cup, Group B opening game between England and Iran

Fans have been pictured packing out pubs with a pint of beer in hand as England take on Iran in their World Cup opener this afternoon

Fans have been pictured packing out pubs with a pint of beer in hand as England take on Iran in their World Cup opener this afternoon

The empty streets of Windsor town centre, Berkshire, as many remain at home to watch the England hame

The empty streets of Windsor town centre, Berkshire, as many remain at home to watch the England hame

Much of the UK workforce has either booked the day off work or are calling in sick so they can watch the game. Pictured: Empty streets in Windsor

Much of the UK workforce has either booked the day off work or are calling in sick so they can watch the game. Pictured: Empty streets in Windsor

Empty roads around Bristol this morning, with traffic levels down in several cities across the country today including the capital

Empty roads around Bristol this morning, with traffic levels down in several cities across the country today including the capital

England fan David has taken his seat near a screen to watch the game at a pub in King's Heath, Birmingham, against Iran this afternoon

England fan David has taken his seat near a screen to watch the game at a pub in King’s Heath, Birmingham, against Iran this afternoon

The Aston Expressway near Birmingham was empty this morning as many fans chose to take the day off or work from home today

The Aston Expressway near Birmingham was empty this morning as many fans chose to take the day off or work from home today

Friends Callum Rowe, Jon Dunne and Kyle Brown were knocking on the door of the popular venue when it opened its doors this morning.

All tickets for the 750-capacity venue sold out last night – with an extra 35 released at 10.30 this morning.

The friends – who have all taken the day off work to watch the match – said that they couldn’t wait for the Three Lions to kick off their World Cup campaign.

Jon, 35, told MailOnline: ‘It feels a bit weird with the tournament being held in winter. We should be sitting in a beer garden not watching the match inside in the dark and the rain.

‘But now we can’t wait to see the football and will be supporting England, hopefully all the way to the final.’

Female fans Jess and Alex were outnumbered by men 100 to one but we’re enjoying the atmosphere.

Jess, 27, told MailOnline: ‘I took the day off work to cheer in England. I work in sports development and my boss said he was proud of me. You’ve got to support your team. Come On England!’ It’s going to be 5-1 to England!

She added: ‘Its not ideal that the World Cup is in Qatar for lots of reasons but I’ve been there for work and people are nice.’

Alex, 28, said: ‘Watching the match is a great excuse to have a drink on a Monday lunchtime! I say it’s going to be 2-0 to England.

‘It’s not ideal that it’s being held in Qatar but I’ve been to the Middle East a few times for work and football is very popular.’

Hagley Road West in Birmingham, one of the main commuter routes into the city centre, was very quiet at rush hour this morning

Hagley Road West in Birmingham, one of the main commuter routes into the city centre, was very quiet at rush hour this morning

Annual leave requests have soared by 13 per cent with quick-thinking employees booking the day off ahead of time. 

Around a quarter of supporters have said they plan to watch the World Cup from a pub or bar, despite the unusual time of year for the tournament, with Britons expected to consume nine million pints of beer as Wales also begin their campaign today.

Debbie Porter, managing director of a Destination Digital Marketing, said her children’s school had ‘rearranged’ its normal day in order to avoid pupils and staff calling in sick.

She said: ‘My children’s’ school have entirely rearranged the school day today, presumably in an attempt to keep their absenteeism figures in the correct percentage range for OFSTED. 

‘Recording the game and watching it just a few hours later is entirely within the scope of our technological abilities, so I can’t fathom why we shouldn’t be expecting people to grow up a bit and defer their gratification to the evening. This goes for employees as well as schoolchildren.’

Sam Alsop-Hall, chief strategy officer of a recruitment firm Woodrow Mercer Healthcare, said he had given his employees an ‘extended lunch’ to allow them to watch the entire game.

He said: ‘First game today and we’ve told the team if they get into the office an hour earlier they can have an extended lunch to watch the game. Our only other rule is don’t come back half cut, but the World Cup only comes around once every four years so let’s enjoy it.’

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