Workers of England unite (in front of their TV screens)

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The Independent Online

Officially it was just another normal working Friday but an estimated £1bn was lost to the economy yesterday as English cities ground to a standstill before erupting into scenes of wild partying.

Officially it was just another normal working Friday but an estimated £1bn was lost to the economy yesterday as English cities ground to a standstill before erupting into scenes of wild partying.

Thousands of workers took the day off, with or without the boss's permission, while most of those that did make it in had downed tools well before 12.30pm. By the time the match kicked off,near-silence had descended on city centres. Finding a taxi was almost impossible as cabbies took time off to listen to radio commentary or find a television screen.

The business analysts CEBR estimated that one third of a day's productivity had been lost, although the "feel good factor" was expected to generate £150m spending in a weekend of celebration and consumer spending.

Anticipating the level of interest in the game, many large companies set up television screens to dissuade staff from skiving. At the Nissan factory near Sunderland, the assembly line of Europe's most productive car plant was stopped while 3,000 staff watched the match. Plasma screens were brought into three canteens, where rows of seats had been set up.

Dawn Waugh, a plant spokeswoman, said workers went back to the shopfloor with smiles on their faces after the final whistle. "People were jubilant after the game, they were shouting, cheering, hooting and laughing," she said. "We have not calculated what it cost but it has gone down an absolute storm with staff and they have really enjoyed it."

Enterprising City firms laid on free food and drink at wine bars, using the event as an opportunity to meet clients or treat staff. At Harleys wine bar near Chancery Lane, the law firm Irwin Mitchell hosted one of many parties. Lawyers and solicitors spent the early afternoon screaming abuse at Argentine players and chanting "football's coming home".

And England's win ensured that many kept partying into the afternoon. John Nichol, who stood in the rain with a plastic bag on his head to watch on a giant screen in central Newcastle, said: "I am off for a few celebratory pints. I have been given a deadline by my wife, and now we are just feeling great."

One party ended early when a pub ceiling collapsed in Bristol. Hundreds of fans were evacuated from the Walkabout Inn five minutes before the end of the match when the plaster ceiling fell around them. Five people were injured.

In Corby, Northamptonshire, a man aged 18 was stabbed to death in a pub an hour after the game ended, when the pub was still full of football fans. Two local men, aged 18 and 19, later went to police and were being questioned.

Celebrations elsewhere were good-natured, with the former England player Paul Gascoigne joining hundreds of fans in Trafalgar Square.

Business experts were trying to calculate the effect of England's probable progression to the final stages. But there is one glimmer of hope for any bosses unnerved by the thought of their workforce being gripped by World Cup fever for the rest of the month: the final will be on a Sunday.

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