England in Sri Lanka 2011-12 March 24, 2012

Barmy Army maddened by ticket hike


Thousands of England fans who have descended upon Galle without tickets ahead of the first Test have been told they must pay prices that are up to ten times higher than those charged to Australian supporters only seven months ago.

England's more budget-conscious supporters assumed that they would be able to buy tickets casually and take advantage of local rates, but they have been told by Sri Lanka Cricket officials that they will be refused access to the grassy banks that offer cheaper vantage points in the stadium.

Representatives of the Barmy Army, the unofficial yet influential England supporters' group, met with representatives of SLC's executive committee, and the Southern Province Cricket Association on Saturday, to be told that "foreigners" would have to remain in designated, high-price areas as SLC adopt a controversial two-tier pricing policy.

Unless the position is reversed, most England fans face ticket costs at LKR 5,000 ($38) as the debt-ridden board takes advantage of the fact they have turned out in such force by attempting to ease its stricken financial position.

Barmy Army Cricket tweeted: "Disappointing meet with the secretary of S province cric ass & SL exec committee member, no access to 'foreigners' on the grass bank."

Giles Wellington, a leading Barmy Army member, followed up: "We're not comfortable with one price for locals and one for foreigners. Feelings are running high in some quarters. We know we are lucky to be here but we don't want to feel we are being ripped off."

A Sri Lanka Cricket official indicated that they have now responded in part to Barmy Army entreaties by adding a further reduced-price area at LKR 1,000 ($8). Asanga Seneviratne, chairman of the tour organising committee, said: "Tickets are priced at LKR 5000 and LKR 1000 and anyone can purchase them. There are no restrictions."

Sri Lanka Cricket has severe financial problems after running up debts of $32.5 million to finance the building of two international stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele, and to renovate the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, for the World Cup.

Payments owed to players, dating back to the World Cup, were only fully settled less than two weeks ago after the state-owned Bank of Ceylon released 600 million rupees ($5 million) after discussions with the sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage.

Presumably SLC has seen the visit of England, with its guaranteed high number of travelling supporters, as a chance to give the bottom line a much-needed boost. Sri Lanka is still seen as a good-value place to follow England overseas despite the struggling UK economy and its impact on the strength of the pound but the decision has shocked those who follow England on a shoestring.

Those who have bought tickets in the UK before arriving as part of a package have paid up to Rs8,000 ($62), which still compares favourably to ticket prices for England's home Tests and other overseas venues such as the previous Ashes tour.

Many, though, avoid the high-end tickets that package-holiday companies must buy. What has inflamed the mood of these England fans is that they were given no indication of any change of policy in advance. For the previous Test at this ground, when Australia visited last August, tickets were pegged at LKR500 and even then the stadium was not sold out.

A suggestion floated privately by one SLC official that locals could also be expected to pay LKR5000 (US$38) for a single day's ticket seems to have been abandoned. That would have amounted to a weekly wage for a large proportion of the community.

There was a mixed response from the England supporters at Galle as they watched England train. Some shrugged it off as understandable, given SLC's financial predicament. Others told of personal donations to Sri Lanka cricket after the tsunami that devastated the Galle ground eight years ago and suggested that they now felt exploited.

Supporters may now pick and choose to come to just one or two days of the Test, while the ancient Dutch Fort overlooking the ground should prepare to be overtaken by cricket watchers on Monday. At least the ice cream sellers on the ramparts will have a field day.

Edited by David Hopps

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Fred on March 27, 2012, 13:23 GMT

    While $38 for a ticket compared to £50 for a ticket in England may sound like a good deal, it is highly likely that England supporters will only go to 1 or 2 days out of 25 (5 days of 5 test) in England. Travelling abroad to go to 1 or 2 days is just not worth it, which is why travelling fans have to budget carefully to see more days of cricket. If the price of tickets go up tenfold (compared to the Aus test tickets) after they've started their trip they may only be able to afford to go to a few of the days they had originally planned. If SLC are going to have a 2 tier system (with such a big difference) they should at least be open and honest about it before the tour.

    Secondly, is a non-Sri Lakan living and working in Sri Lanka (earning local wages) eligible to buy the lowest price tickets? If yes, fair enough they are at least basing prices on percieved wealth. If no, then it's not a financial thing, it's a race thing (even if it was not their intention).

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2012, 10:03 GMT

    I dont get this! I can understand SL fans point of view, but why are barmy army upset? If Srilanka wanna charge these prices it entirely up to them and they can reduce/increase price of the tickets by supply and demand. If barmy army cannot afford it, it their problem. They are not in England and are in a foreign country!

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    No issue at all, simply Sri Lanka Cricket is not a charity organization. People who interest to watch matches can buy a ticket, who not can watch it in front of TV.

  • Carl on March 26, 2012, 19:28 GMT

    I am currently in Sri Lanka for this tour yorkslanka the ticket prices were only officialy announced yesterday until that point we all thought we would pay the 500 rupees a day the Australian fans paid not long back. Think if the ECB charged people prices based on race as thats whats happening here, no Englishman was able to purchase a ticket for 1000lkr, however a large number of locals were trying to sell these tickets last night for 3000lkr knowing full well that only Sri Lankans could actually use them for entry. We are here putting money into the tourist trade. Its not a money issue we are unhappy about its the issue of having to pay more based on the fact we are British and we travel on masse following our team, everyone I have spoken to have said they will not be back here again so the profit they make overcharging the English, will never be repeated it will be interesting to see when India and Pakistan tour here if their supporters will be asked to stump up 5000 rupees a day

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2012, 17:15 GMT

    Surely we are missing the point. Yes its more expensive to watch in england, thats not denied, but the mere fact that the price has gone up so dramatically since the Aussie visit is because the board see England, whose fans are the only ones who still really support test cricket, as a cash cow. That is 2 faced and underhanded. It doesnt matter what the price is elsewhere, its the 2 tier system in the country we are talking about. The England fans have to complain and stand against it otherwise everyone will do it to them. They are being victimised for their loyalty

  • Prashan on March 26, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    @RandyOZ, hope you enjoyed the warm friendly Sri Lankan hospitality. I personally dont endorse the idea of charging foreigners a high amount when entering a tourist site. Hope Aussies agree to play Pakistan in Sri Lanka in August this year.

  • Shihan on March 26, 2012, 14:28 GMT

    'foreigner' prices are par for the course anywhere in SL...must admit though that this should have been communicated much earlier. Then it prob will feel like less of a rip-off for the tourists...

  • Ron on March 26, 2012, 11:32 GMT

    The Margret Thacher govt. introduced that differential system for locals and foreigners. That apart, it cost smore for locals and foreigners in many countries. The grassy patches are areas taken advantage by Sri Lankan fans to whom 38$ is perhaps a week's wage. Can you purchase a premium ticket for 38$ in the UK?

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2012, 8:48 GMT

    SLC have missed a trick here... they should have kept the ticket prices at $4 but put the price of a beer up to $9 which is about equivalent to what we pay at UK grounds. I'm sure most of the Barmy Army would then have spent double or triple the amount of the hiked-up ticket price. Instead, they may indeed go to a bar and watch the match on the telly.

  • Prasad on March 25, 2012, 10:28 GMT

    I don't think that this is an issue by any means for any member of Barmy Army to shout like this...They have been asked to pay maximum amount of 5000LKR which equals to 38USD... I would like to ask the question of; whether anybody can buy a Test Match ticket at the price of 38USD, when a match is played in England..I would say, Galle International Cricket Ground not only provides the entertainment of Cricket, but also it is more like a picnic spot with the surrounding of historical Dutch fortress, Indian Ocean, modern city and the Galle harbor. Hence watching a Test match under these condition for just 38USD per day is like a bonus for any visitor to this beautiful island. By and large, I have no complains about this pricing scale to this test match; particularly in a stage where SLC is seeking some financial improvement.

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