World Cup Jobs: Pints, punters and a lot of atmosphere

The World Cup is nearly here. And footie-mad bar staff are queuing up for work, says Nick Jackson

As 9 June approaches, World Cup fever is breaking out - and optimism (tempered by concern over the fitness of a certain Wayne Rooney) is sweeping our proudly sceptic isle. The England flags are going up in houses and cars and all around the country people are planning to give up on their ambitions for another month and head down to the pub to enjoy the footballing spectacular.

For those without tickets to the games in Germany, the pub is, without doubt, the best place to watch World Cup matches, offering as it does a passionate crowd, big screens and, of course, alcohol. So it should perhaps come as no surprise that, according to the BII's recruitment website barzone.co.uk, applications for bar jobs have shot up in readiness for the World Cup season, with many of us taking a break from the day job and hitting the pumps.

Helen McCormack, 27, is one of them. McCormack is, of course, a footie nut, something that at the moment seems more important to her than the fact that she has just graduated in business management from Staffordshire University. After the World Cup fever subsides McCormack is looking forward to a career in marketing. But for now all she cares about is a front row seat in front of the widescreen at the local.

"It's a nightmare getting a decent spot in the pub," she says. "I'll probably have the best position. I'll be getting paid to watch what I want. And over the World Cup friends will come down and have a few."

McCormack reckons that watching a match in the pub beats even going to the game yourself. "I prefer it in the pub," she says. "You can go to a game and not see anything. And of course there's a ready supply of alcohol. There's going to be a wicked atmosphere. It's a time when everybody's on the same side. The flags are already out."

While many of the punters behind the bar this month will be students and graduates there are some brave souls giving up more lucrative careers. Greg Cook, 32, is quitting his job as an accountant to get in on the action. Cook was luckier than many of us in 2002; his work let him out of the office to watch matches. But it was, he says, a frustrating experience. "It was very much get there, watch the game, go back to work," he says. "This year I wanted to have the time to take in the atmosphere, enjoy the whole occasion."

Compared to accountancy working in a bar might be seen as a bit of a doss, but Cook is expecting to earn his keep, if also have some fun. "It'll be busy but the atmosphere will be great. When England play the atmosphere is completely different to watching a league game. It's a lot rowdier, there's lots of singing and shouting." Not, admits Cook, what he would normally have to look forward to at work.

But the atmosphere may not be that different from the average school day. If any group of people are qualified to deal with the rowdy punters of the World Cup it is teachers. And even some of this exemplary, sober and resolutely respectable profession are donning the St George's Cross this month.

David Crawley, 29, is finishing his teacher training at Beaverwood School in Chislehurst just in time for the beginning of the Cup. To celebrate Crawley is looking for bar work in his native Croydon. His priorities are simple. "Hopefully somewhere local," he says. "Preferably one with a big screen."

For Crawley, it is not only about the football. Working in the local for the season, he says, is also a good opportunity to meet your neighbours. "You're part of the community," he says. "It's definitely the way to make friends."

Whether England comes back from Berlin in ecstatic triumph or predictable defeat the one thing you are guaranteed down the pub over the next month is camaraderie. But giving up the day job should come with a warning. "It's going to be brilliant," says Helen McCormack. "As long as we win..."

To find a job in a pub over the World Cup season and beyond go to the BII's website at www.barzone.co.uk

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