Will's Web Watch: Football fever

Any excuse to write about football, gladly accepted... Back of the net!!

Any excuse to write about football, gladly accepted... Back of the net!!

While the thoughts of England boss Sven Goran Eriksson may be dominated by his attempts to mastermind a win at Euro 2004, many 'real world' bosses would probably just settle for finding a way to get their staff working despite the many temptations to cyber-loaf during the tournament.

After all, nothing unites the nation, or causes a more prolific dip in productivity, more than a major football tournament.

And the options are endless. By the time you've read the match reports online at the BBC site - and also on FootballUnlimited for a second opinion - and had a bet online at Blue Square and updated your fantasy football team on any one of the hundreds of such sites, it's almost time to watch the match or listen to it live on the Uefa website or Radio five live.

(Hats off to the Guardian whose minute-by-minute text commentary is one of the most enjoyable destinations on the web... after silicon.com of course.)

The official Uefa Euro 2004 website is also offering a paid-for highlights package for fans who want to dissect the previous evening's game on their desktop. And, of course, the beauty of it is, to anybody who can't see the screen, you'll appear as though you are scrutinising a document and working hard. The site is expected to attract around half a billion hits... which is some pretty serious traffic by anybody's standards.

Hands up, I confess, as I write this I actually have one eye on the Czech Republic v Latvia game which is just kicking off (thank God for PCs with TV cards, projectors and large screens - forget PowerPoint presentations, this is what they were invented for!)

It's a wonder any work gets done - and even then that's assuming you count writing an article about football-inspired cyber-loafing as work. (Ed note. We don't Will, pull your finger out and do some proper work.)

You may even be inspired by the flag-waving patriotism so rife - and welcome - at the moment to go online and buy yourself an England shirt - or the shirt of whichever other team you support. My personal favourite for football shirts is Toffs.co.uk, which does a great line in retro shirts, should you want to rekindle memories of former glories.

Also getting into the patriotic spirit of things is the aforementioned dot-com bookie Blue Square which is offering to refund all losing bets on an outright winner at Euro 2004 if it is England who lift the cup. Good for them. Though I can't help thinking they must be confident their benevolence won't be tested.

The bookies are facing a challenge of their own at the moment with organised crime gangs attempting to blackmail them with the threat of denial of service attacks. During a tournament like this, when bookies will make much of their annual revenue, any downtime would be a very serious concern - a fact the criminals are obviously aware of. (Read our recent exclusive interview with an online bookie for more on this scam.)

The internet has certainly revolutionised the modern football tournament. From the moment the tickets went on sale on the official website (and many also found their way onto less official sites, such as popular auction sites) the internet has played a commanding role in shaping spectators interest in the competition and keeping their wallets open.

It's certainly a far cry from clichés of huddling around the village wireless for bitty and broken commentary from a far-off land, or waiting two days for a match report in the newspaper.