India news March 28, 2012

World Cup final was not sold out

The 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai may have been the hottest ticket in town, with reports of individual tickets selling for as much as $10,000 on the black market, but according to the Mumbai Cricket Association, the final was not actually sold out. A report prepared by the association shows that 405 tickets remained unsold, ESPNcricinfo understands. These include 96 tickets in the Sunil Gavaskar stand (lower) at a cost of Rs 1,500 ($30) each. The total value of the unsold tickets was Rs 73.4 lakhs (approx $144,000).

The news that the association was not able to sell all its tickets comes as a surprise given prior reports of the match being sold out and the thriving black market that arose around the game. A day before the final, even RR Patil, the home minister for Maharashtra state, said "all the tickets have been sold".

When contacted by ESPNcricinfo, Ratnakar Shetty, the tournament director for the event and a current vice-president of the MCA, said "this is not something we need to discuss" with the media and that the issue would be dealt with by the association's managing committee, which is scheduled to meet on March 31. He added that the members of the association were responsible people and that they would deal with the situation.

The MCA's report shows that a total of 31,118 tickets were up for sale, though only about 4000 of those were available to the general public because the association was contractually obligated to offer tickets to the ICC and its member clubs. In all, the sale of tickets realised Rs 22.89 crores (approx $4.5 million). The game, which India won in spectacular fashion when captain MS Dhoni hit Nuwan Kulasekara for six, was also watched on television by 134.5 million Indians, according to TAM Sports, a television ratings agency.

Ticketing was a controversial issue throughout the World Cup. Police in Bangalore conducted a baton-charge on fans queuing up for tickets for the India-England group game. The 7000 tickets were sold out within three hours, officials said, leaving hundreds of fans - many of whom had queued up overnight - angry and disappointed.

Demand for tickets for the final soared to the point that the official ticketing website - Kyazoonga.com - crashed amid a scramble for the 1,000 tickets that were offered online. At one stage, the website had 500,000 concurrent users trying to buy tickets to the World Cup final.

Many fans also complained about not receiving tickets they had bought online and the ICC was eventually moved to ask its president Sharad Pawar to intervene. A letter written to Pawar by David Becker, the ICC's legal head, and published by the Indian channel NDTV, warned of the growing discontent among the ICC's commercial partners over tournament tickets due to them and the possible financial fallout.

An ICC spokesperson did not want to comment on the matter of unsold tickets, however, saying that it would not be "appropriate for us to comment on the ticket allocation of MCA or BCCI". However, following the World Cup the ICC did appoint consultancy firm KPMG to conduct "an independent review of the ticketing process in order to determine whether proper controls existed for the allocation, distribution and accounting for all tickets so as to avoid in future the allegations of 'black market' selling of tickets".

According to an executive summary of KPMG's report, the scope of the review covered the ticketing operations of the ICC, official tour operators and Kyazoonga. It did not, therefore, cover distribution of tickets through local cricket associations.

While the report did not unearth evidence suggesting that the ICC, official tour operators or Kyazoonga were responsible for black marketing of tickets, it did state that the ICC needed to make sure that sufficient tickets were available to the public in the future and that there should be "central control and management of tickets [and] better record keeping."

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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