November 26, 2006

First Test, Brisbane

Time for a Commercial Break

Gideon Haigh
Police remove an inflatable doll from the crowd, Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, November 25, 2006
 © Getty Images


Great concern this summer attended the arrival of the Barmy Army, whose songs, chants and general bonhomie, it was feared, would drown out Australian fans, and render Tests inhospitable – or, at least, interfere with time-honoured parochialism and partisanship which Aussies regard as the natural state of things.

In fact, both the Army and their antipodean rivals have here been kept well and truly under a pretty coarse thumb by the police, administering the Killjoy Act with the help of CCTV. Only Pat Buchanan is more hostile to the Mexican wave than the potentates of the Gabba. Yet Cricket Australia is poorly placed to be pointing the finger at anyone – it is looming as a far more exasperating noise polluter than any group of fans.

Those at home moaning about the ad breaks and Greig-o-grams on Channel Nine are actually getting off lightly; I have hardly known a noisier Test match. Even the first morning, when one might have expected a breathless hush in the close, was punctuated by deafening advertisements and pointless announcements on the public address system. No cricketer on the field has been celebrated so lustily as ‘the lovely Sheree and her team from 3’, the corporate nymphs and dryads distributing the main sponsor's bounty, while the loudest voices have been of Talking Boony, Talking Beefy and Talking Bollocks – the bonehead at the microphone who lets us in to such milestones as Ricky Ponting’s 9000th Test run, of which he informed the fact-starved masses in the middle of an over on the third afternoon.

Pop songs begin playing at 8am every day – or to be precise, they’ve been playing when I’ve arrived at that time, and they may well be on an endless 24-hour loop, deafening the cleaners as well. At various intervals, the crowd has also been serenaded by the troubadour Greg Champion. His rendition of a puerile anti-Pom jingle to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight – ‘They whinge away, they whinge away, they whinge away, they whinge away, they whinge away, they whinge away (repeat * 445) – at least drew an apology from Queensland Cricket’s CEO Graham Dixon. The rest of it has been beyond sorry, and into the realm of unforgivable.

How badly does Australia cricket need the cash, that they should be have surrendered their temple to the money-lenders? Before the Test, patrons were invited to report to the authorities anyone noisy and uncouth enough to interfere with the enjoyment of others. The trouble is that, at the Gabba, the authorities have been noisiest and uncouth of all. Is it too late for me to dob in Cricket Australia?

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

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Posted by Paul_Bris on (November 28, 2006, 4:06 GMT)

Agree wholeheartedly. Went to the Gabba to day 3 and 4 for the first time in over 10 years. Won't be going again. Went with some English friends and while they were embarassed by the score, I was embarassed by 'our' authorities behaviour. They (Cric AUS, QLD and the local media) were taking the p*ss out of the Barmy Army because they were still supporting the losing team even when all hope was lost. Of course not until after they had invited them in the first place and then taken the money off them. I know who the real losers are and my family won't go again.

Posted by Venu on (November 27, 2006, 10:34 GMT)

I agree, great insights - have read quite a bit of your articles over the past year. The problem with the system we live in (i.e Capitalism) is that those who want to excel in it,out of necessity, have to be greedy. Therefore, it is not how badly does Cricket Australia need money, but as long as they can make more money they will do it. The fact that the announcements have been getting louder every year only shows that they try to keep pushing it until people start complaining. The problem with complaining is that they are seldom heard and when they are, it is by someone who can hardly act upon it. My suggestion to everyone who wants to enjoy a good game of cricket - get yourself an expensive set of noise cancellation head phones and listen to transistor radio. Return to the old days.

Posted by Fraggle on (November 27, 2006, 10:13 GMT)

Paddy I appreciate your comments about Old Trafford, I had to endure similar behaviour at Headingley this summer. Surely though common sense has to prevail - it seems CA have gone in with a zero tolerance policy for this Test, let's hope it won't apply to the whole series.

Posted by Paddy on (November 27, 2006, 7:33 GMT)

Having attended 2 days of the Brisbane test as an England fan, I've one observation to make about the security arrangements. Sure, it kept the chanting down, and I can see why people got upset by this, but it also avoided the sort of spectacle I had to put up with at Old Trafford on the 1st day of this year's Pakistan test, where after midday 90% of the blind drunk crowd made no attempt to watch the cricket and spent their time throwing cardboard beer holders, mooning, swearing at each other and trying to start Mexican waves,whilst security did nothing. Frankly, I'd prefer heavy handedness to being subjected to a day like that again.

And one final observation in response to the complaints about being "fleeced". I paid the equivalent of 10 quid for my ticket on one day, and 16 quid for the other. Cost this summer for the cheapest seats at Old Trafford and Trent Bridge? 40 and 50 quid respectively. Cricket Australia may be killjoys, but they certainly aren't ripping anyone off.

Posted by Philip on (November 27, 2006, 4:39 GMT)

I've attended every Boxing Day test at Melbourne now for the last seven or eight years bar one or two (being interstate) - and by that I mean have attended every day of the test, not just the first day. Every year the announcements and advertisements have been amplified louder and louder, to the point that it is actually painful to sit in certain parts of the Great Southern Grandstand (close to bay 1) where the loudspeakers are without wearing earplugs. By the third day of last year's test it was possible to sit as far away as possible in the Northern Stand, but on Boxing Day itself the amplifiers were turned up to such a level that every time the voice of the announcer boomed out everyone within four or so bays of the main speakers would just about jump out of their seats.

This year Cricket Australia made it virtually impossible to buy a general admission ticket for the entire test match, so at least this year my hearing won't be impaired on account of the idiots in charge of the ground announcements, nor for that matter will I be fleeced every time I want something to eat or drink from the exorbitant catering to a captive market. (Frankly, I'm disgusted.)

Posted by The Big Ship on (November 26, 2006, 22:52 GMT)

Spot on Gideon. I blame the Fanatics. We should have locked them in Rod Laver arena after the conclusion of the Australian Open. I recommend an IQ test of sorts prior to being admitted entry to any of our wonderful cricket arenas. Automatic fail if you are a. wearing facepaint and over 9, b. participate in an Oi, Oi Oi chorus or c. consider Lleyton and Bec the First Family of Australian sport.

Posted by Tony on (November 26, 2006, 20:41 GMT)

Absolutely correct! From the constant advertising to the ridiculous contrived songs of Greg Champion Cricket Australia as usual things the cricket watching public are fools. I've watched cricket in India, West Indies and England and my home test, the Gabba has turned into a joke. Give me Chennai any day, alcohol banned, 40 degrees, Buckingham Canal...but the crowd!!!

Posted by Srivaths on (November 26, 2006, 20:29 GMT)

Does Gideon's sparkling writing have to be enveloped by the dullest of gray backgrounds and advertisements for "Monty Panesar's agent"?

Posted by David on (November 26, 2006, 20:10 GMT)

I am so bloody angry. I had the misfortune to be really treasuring my tickets to day 3, but the PA assault was so puerile, the commercialism so rampant and the security presence so threatening, that I gave up just after tea- along with more than half of the crowd I may add. At one stage a gentleman two rows back from me got a bit enthusiastic and dared to stand on his chair and shout a few words of encouragement. Not only was he wrestled down, handcuffed and carried from the ground, but for the rest of the session my area was hemmed in by no fewer the 16 (Sixteen!!!) police glaring suspiciously at anyone who dared to look sideways. "Australian Cricket Family?" Bollocks- I took my family home.

Posted by joel on (November 26, 2006, 15:02 GMT)

It is patently obvious that no one at cricket australia has ever attended a game in the west indies, because if they did they would realise that spectator participation, within reason of course, is part and parcel of the game. Imagine what it would be like during the world cup if the WICB were as heavyhanded. Australian cricket has recently tried to claim the title of the "greatest ever team" and have just not made the grade. the way they treat their fans is one reason.

Posted by Linda on (November 26, 2006, 14:21 GMT)

I totally agree. Wasn't the Gabba the same place where spectators smuggled a pig on to the ground? What happened to that spirit?

Posted by Josh on (November 26, 2006, 13:15 GMT)

Couldn't agree more. The best part of going to Pura Cup cricket is that there is none of this noise! Announcements such as Ponting's 9000th run should be at the end of an over - not the middle! I also HATE having an ad on the replay screen as soon as a 4 or 6 is hit - just so we have to wait to see what we missed as we spilled the beer!

Posted by Phil on (November 26, 2006, 12:28 GMT)

The issue of grund announcers taking over the microphone has been a worrying trend for a long time now. We don't need or want to hear incessant advertisements, announcements or statistics - all we want is to enjoy the atmosphere of the match, to feel the tension, to hear the responses from the people watching. Memo Cricket Australia - get rid of your ground announcers and let the band play on.

Posted by john forrest on (November 26, 2006, 11:25 GMT)

attended the first day of the gabba test.What an absolute waste of time and money.From the absolute shambles that came under the banner of getting people to their seats as quickly as possible to the heavy handed biased treatment by the police towards the section of the barmy army in the lower sourhern stand when they began to sing.seemed to be OK if you had australian fanatics gear on and wanted to sing.Apart from this being continually bombarded over the the PA to 'dob in" troublemakers and having spy cameras everywhere virtually "castrated" the normal atmosphere that should be able to be enjoyed by spectators.

As a cricket follower since Adam was in the Cadets I wish to apologise to those English fans who at great expense have made the Ashes tour an unmitigated sales success. This is something that Cricket Australia ( which has exploited the Barmy Army factor to the maximum in its greedy grab for money)seems to have forgotten.

To top things off we have an officially sanctioned offensive and demeaning song played at tea on Saturday 26/11/06.

Those running Cricket Australia & Cricket Queensland owe all cricket fans an apology and should hang their collective heads in shame for the damage they have done to this game and to cricket in the future.

Maybe the time has come to clean out the offices of Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket and install people who have a real love and understanding of the game.

Posted by Mick on (November 26, 2006, 11:13 GMT)

I agree with your comments about noise pollution.

Announcements in the middle of an over! Appalling! I hope the third umpire/match referee has something to say about that, or will it interrupt his jam and cream scones?

Posted by JC on (November 26, 2006, 11:09 GMT)

It is a disturbing echo of a Big Brother-ish moment, in which gregarious bonhomie is treated little better than the excesses fo the soccer hooligans. It is going to take more than a few Coodabeens trying to sledge the Poms back to get our crowds to sing as the Barmy Army does. Silencing them is censorship; using CA ad time to belittle them is embarrassingly heavy-handed. I enjoy Greg Champion's sporting satire normally and have contributed lyrics to the Coodabeens before, but this one might need a rethink.

Posted by Magnus on (November 26, 2006, 11:05 GMT)

Australia's cricket administrators have a long history of being small-minded. After all, if they'd been a little bit more reasonable in the 1970s, World Series Cricket never would have happened and one day internationals may never have taken off in quite the way that they did. Cricket grounds have always attracted sanctimonious and self-important killjoys in uniform - most of the time they're just gate attendants. Perhaps this heavy handed police presence should just be put down as another side-benefit of the war on terror, and spectators should continue to be alert but not alarmed as they queue for low alcohol beer?

Posted by Vasu on (November 26, 2006, 10:00 GMT)

As someone who has been relying on this site for Ashes, I agree that Gideon's posts over the past week have been a wind of refreshing change, compared to the few other blogs that have been around. Well done, Gideon - keep them coming.

Posted by Stevo on (November 26, 2006, 9:03 GMT)

BLoody ads! Annoying , but you can hide in the refuge of ABC radio! Just tough to have a chat with your mates sometimes! Glad the Barmy Army were cracked down on, they can be as annoying as the ads. As an Aussie I wouldn't be able bring a trumpet in ( or my cricket bat/beer holder which should of been celebrating its 10th straight Gabba test appearance ), so don't see why visiting fans should be given special treatment ( I'm not agreeing with the ruile, just saying that their can't be one rule for one and one rule for another )

Posted by Stephen on (November 26, 2006, 7:06 GMT)

As someone who spent the past three days at the Gabba I totally agree. The Barmy Army provide a great deal of enjoyment to fans of all nations, and help liven up dull period of play. The fact that Cricket Australia crack down on them so hard reveal them to be cowards .

Posted by Big Rog on (November 26, 2006, 6:54 GMT)

Couldn't agree with Gideon more, it seems Is Australia in general becoming less tolerant, more paranoid and less fun loving and gregarious than we used to be? So what if the opposition provide more of the noise, it should invite a positive response, not fear! And why are we lurching more to the commercial, inane side of life? Like we need someone over the PA telling us what we need and who the sponsors are, or subjecting the crowd to someones very poor taste in music. Carn the poms - as long as we win 5-0, you can make all the noise you want!

Posted by Jagadish on (November 26, 2006, 5:18 GMT)

Wow, I really have enjoyed reading Gideon Haigh's unique insights over the last week. Cricinfo needs to do a better job publicising this blog of such high quality. its so damn hard to find unless youre looking for it in every corrner of the site..

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Gideon Haigh
Born in London of a Yorkshire father, raised in Australia by a Tasmanian mother, Gideon Haigh lives in Melbourne with a cat, Trumper. He has written 19 books and edited a further seven. He is also a life member and perennial vice-president of the South Yarra CC.

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