Queensland Cricket offers apology November 26, 2006

Fans see red over offensive song

Cricinfo staff

Tourism Australia says the Barmy Army should be welcomed with open arms © Getty Images

The off-field dramas involving England fans have continued after Queensland Cricket was forced to apologise for playing a derogatory song during the tea break at the Gabba. The apology was prompted by Barmy Army members complaining about offensive lyrics in a parody of the song The Lion Sleeps Tonight, recorded by the Australian musician Greg Champion.

The Queensland Cricket chief executive Graham Dixon told The Australian the song, which implied English fans were unwashed, unhealthy whingers, would not be played during future tea breaks. It had been part of the official entertainment organised by Cricket Australia.

It was the latest in a string of off-field incidents involving the Barmy Army, whose founder Paul Burnham said the group was considering a boycott of the rest of the Ashes Tests if they continued to be treated "like schoolchildren" by Gabba security staff. The threat pushed the Tourism Australia chairman Tim Fischer, a former deputy prime minister of Australia, into damage-control mode.

"It should be remembered the Barmy Army are ticket-paying, high-yield tourists, and should be allowed to sit together within reason and should be given their trumpet back for subsequent tests," Fischer said. "Everyone wants to focus on the cricket and enjoy the cricket, but the over-reaction at the Gabba has destroyed a great deal of atmosphere. Combined with the stuff-up with the tea-time entertainment, the cricket and ground authorities really need to ensure all goes well at the Adelaide Test and subsequent tests."

Gabba officials are also under fire from Australian fans. The Courier-Mail reported that security staff told a group of Australian supporters they could not enter the ground with helmets carved out of watermelons for fear they could be used as weapons. "We are not setting out to be killjoys but we don't want some dill spoiling the day because he's hopelessly inebriated," the Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young told the paper.