England in Sri Lanka 2011-12

Barmy Army maddened by ticket hike

Andrew McGlashan in Galle

March 24, 2012

Comments: 41 | Text size: A | A

The England fans make their feelings known, Sri Lanka v England, 3rd Test, Galle, 5th day, December 22 2007
England fans watch from the Dutch Fort in 2008 and may do the same again this year © Getty Images

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by IJustWantToSay on (March 27, 2012, 14:23 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).

Posted by   on (March 27, 2012, 11:03 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!

Posted by   on (March 27, 2012, 10:39 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.

Posted by Harrymay on (March 26, 2012, 20:28 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

Posted by   on (March 26, 2012, 18:15 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

Posted by Sinhaya on (March 26, 2012, 17:29 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.

Posted by WC96 on (March 26, 2012, 15:28 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...

Posted by Reggaecricket on (March 26, 2012, 12:32 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?

Posted by   on (March 26, 2012, 9:48 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.

Posted by PrasadGunawardane on (March 25, 2012, 11:28 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.

Posted by yorkslanka on (March 25, 2012, 10:57 GMT)

@sir freddie flintoff - you are right, there would be uproar if asian fans here were asked to pay more than the English here...because they both earn similar wages...this is not the case in Sri Lanka ( or most other countries tbh) please do not bring race into this debate, this is about money simple as that..

Posted by   on (March 25, 2012, 10:57 GMT)

Yes, SLC has a right to set its ticket prices as it sees fit. And the debate, as expressed here, about whether countries like Sri Lanka have been delivering Test cricket on the cheap for too long is an intriguing one. But SLC does not have the inalienable right to set prices in an underhand way, two days before a match when supporters have already budgeted for a tour based on an understandable assessment of prices based on previous experience. You cannot say the fans "don't go if you don't like it" when people have travelled halfway around the globe. That is why a Fans Charter, pressed for by an international supporters' group, is essential. Supporters have a basic right to know well in advance a full itinerary and stated prices. Until supporters press the ICC to show leadership and introduce this most basic of rights nothing is about to change. Thanks for all your comments.

Posted by yorkslanka on (March 25, 2012, 10:52 GMT)

the simple fact is that if travelling supporters dont want to pay the ticket prices, then no one is forcing you to go and watch the cricket..it is live on most state tv channels there(unlike here in England) so if you are unhappy, find a bar somewhere, sit relax and watch cricket there..I went to watch Sri Lanka when we toured England here last year and the ticket prices i paid were far more than those in Si Lanka and I expect that as i am lucky enough to earn more than most ordinary people there...fans much live to their means, i will not go to Lords to watch cricket as i simply cannot justify spending that much on cricket there compared to other English grounds..

Posted by SurlyCynic on (March 25, 2012, 10:19 GMT)

I would happily pay extra to sit in a 'Barmy Army-free zone', where I could be spared the moronic repetitive chants... defended as 'fun' or adding 'passion' but only seeming that way to those who have been drinking since breakfast. What sort of person feels the need to inflict a long, boring chant about themselves (everywhere we go, people want to know, blah, blah) on everyone else?

Posted by MoloneyR on (March 25, 2012, 10:10 GMT)

There is no fort from which to watch the match for free in Colombo. People have been saving for this trip and have budgeted on the basis of paying 1000 LKR or less per day on tickets. I know SLC is in debt but England fans should not be expeceted to rescue this situation for them. Test cricket is already dwindling in Sri Lanka and these prices make watching it even more prohibitve. The T20 world cup is being held in Sri Lanka later this year and sell outs should be common - this is the time to recover their losses.

Posted by HumungousFungus on (March 25, 2012, 9:57 GMT)

Whilst I think that the dual tier pricing could have been better communicated in advance of the game, I don't have a huge issue with this...tickets for the Oval Test this Summer against South Africa are £86 in the OCS stand after all. Paying $38 to watch a day's Test cricket in Galle - one of the most beautiful venues in world cricket - is a trifle in comparison. The fact that the locals are paying less is immaterial. Average salaries are around 10-12 times lower than their UK equivalents. There are too many empty seats at Test matches generally (England excepted), and the game will be all the better for having several thousand home fans in, rather than seeing them priced out. And if my own (admittedly limted) experiences of the Barmy Army are anything to go by, and I apologise in advance for the sweeping generalisation, if $38 is such a massive issue, then why not simply drink water all day instead of alcohol and put the saved money towards the cost of the ticket?

Posted by   on (March 25, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

The solution to this is simple. ICC should rule that itineraries and pricesfor international matches must be confirmed 6 months before an international match - with match dates changed only in exceptional and unavoidable circumstancxes. A basic Fans Charter. The ICC needs to get its act together and give supporters worldwide a fair deal.

Posted by RandyOZ on (March 25, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

I have been to Sri Lanka recently and paying "foreigner fees" for all entrances at tourist sites is just how it is. Considering the country has just come out of a long war, if you pay a bit more to help them rebuild the country and provide better facilities for everyone then I think this is a good thing. At the end of the day no one wants too many barmy army supporters at the ground anyway. They are the most arrogant, rudest and ill-informed cricket fans going around.

Posted by AJ_Tiger86 on (March 25, 2012, 8:06 GMT)

Can you imagine if ECB forced Indians/Sri Lankans/Pakistanis to pay 5 times as much for tickets at Lord's/Oval? I'm sure ECB would get sued for discrimination. I would urge the Barmy Army fans to file a lawsuit against the Lankan cricket board here. This is unacceptable in the modern world.

Posted by landl47 on (March 25, 2012, 6:12 GMT)

$38 for a ticket isn't bad and you have to take into account that Sri Lankans earn far less on average than the England supporters. I'd prefer to look at it as seat prices at $38 and a discount for locals who can't afford that. Count yourselves lucky- I just paid $250US (about 150 pounds) for a general admission ticket to the Friday of this year's Ryder Cup in Chicago, and that was a terrific deal!

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (March 25, 2012, 5:07 GMT)

I can fully understand some sections of England teams travelling support especially those on shoestring budget getting upset over this. Especially since they were not given advanced warning of the ticket hike. However Sri Lankan way of doing things has a more laid back attitude to these sought of things than you would expect with northern europeans or north americans. However the good news for the SLC board is that most cricket supporters in England come from middle class backgrounds as cricket in England is generally seen as a middle class sport. Which the professional middle class Doctors,Lawyers, civil engineers etc avidly follow. So if they are travelling to SL to support England. SLC can expect majority of support to have a bit of dosh. So Paying the ticket hike won't be a problem for most. Oh how I wish for the days of the 1980s and early 1990s when you can go and watch top class cricket very cheaply wether your in England, Sri Lanka(Even if your a foreigner) and Australia.

Posted by goldeneye075 on (March 25, 2012, 5:05 GMT)

when england toured sri lanka last time I was doing my undergraduate studies, and I was local kid who went to every match which was played at Asgiriya stadium. But because England were touring the ticket prices were sky high on the stand where I used to watch usual Sri Lanka matches.. (it was around Rs.1000 back then too) so I had to buy the next best which was Rs.50 (only thing I could afford to) and watch the match, where Mahela scored a 100, I lost my faith on SL cricket board because they sold it to us for the same amount, but we were the sri lankas die-hard fans, it would be unfair for them to sell the tickets to us at that rate to locals. Now I am a grad student in US and looking back the situation, I think it would be fair to ask a different price from the touring people, and $38 or $5 is just nothing to them, because if you want to travel to sri lanka the air ticket price would be atleast around $1000-$1500 , so if you could spend that much on travel, why cann't u spend $38?

Posted by   on (March 25, 2012, 3:51 GMT)

I would also add that this is very ironic because when the Windies pulled a similar stunt in Barbados 2004 a section of the Barmy Army boycotted the Caribbean and chose to come to Galle to watch Lanka v Aus (Warne's comeback post-drugs ban). At that time it cost 30 Rupees (less than 20p) to attend a day's cricket. I'd bet my hat that the ticket price in the locals stand will be less than 100 Rupees, making the wonderful concession rate of 1000R only a 900% foreigner tax.

Posted by   on (March 25, 2012, 3:46 GMT)

Use your brains Sri Lanka - let these guys in at a low price and increase the price of beer ! It's basic economics Watson !!!

Posted by RandyOZ on (March 25, 2012, 3:01 GMT)

I have recently come back from a holiday in Sri Lanka (amazing country by the way - will definitely be back!) and paying foreigners prices for every tourist attraction is just how it is; you have to get used to it. Entrance fees are no difference. The country is rebuilding after a war and if you end up paing a bit more to help them build new infrastructure and provide better facilities for everyone then so be it. At the end of the day no-one wants too many barmy army supporters in a cricket ground either as they happen to be the most rude, rowdy, arrogant and ill-informed cricket supporters going around.

Posted by   on (March 25, 2012, 2:42 GMT)

While I feel sorry for the fans, $38 (about 20 quid) is a bargain. $8 it way too cheap for a tourist. I can't agree with people saying the price should be the same for all - the average income of a Sri Lankan is about $3000 per YEAR - surely several times less than that of the average tourist. Pay up, or watch from the fort - which is an experience in itself.

Posted by   on (March 24, 2012, 23:37 GMT)

I have and do pay £100 + to watch cricket in UK in comfort. What seems to be the big problem with this rubbish talk that England fans have to pay $38 to watch the match in designated areas. They are much better equipped with proper facilities etc. Grumble Grumble. Just why on earth does one bother in the first place if you are going to worry about paying pea nuts. SLCB's financial situation should not be any concern of ours as long as the matches are played and facilitated properly.

Posted by MoloneyR on (March 24, 2012, 22:48 GMT)

Can anyone tell me if one price for locals and one price for visitors happens anywhere else in the world?

I cannot see how this policy from SLC is compliant with the ICC's anti-racism code where under Article 2 "conduct ..... which is likely to offend, insult,........reasonable person........(including a spectator) on the basis of their race, religion, culture, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin", is prohibited.

What would happen if a white ex-pat living in Sri Lanka rocked up to the ground; would they have to pay inflated or local prices? This is nothing short of discrimination on grounds of race, nationality and ethnicity.

Segregation within a ground has never been part of the modern game - why are SLC being allowed to get away with this? ICC need to sort this out before the first test.

Posted by   on (March 24, 2012, 22:32 GMT)

Please do not forget the security issue for foreigners. This way it will be much easier to provide with them adequate security.

Posted by   on (March 24, 2012, 22:11 GMT)

Prices have really soared in Sri Lanka, eh?

1992 - just SLR20 to get into the SSC on the grass bank to watch Sri Lanka take on India in a Tets match!

Posted by Lord_Dravid on (March 24, 2012, 21:45 GMT)

im an indian fan but find it spiteful of sri lankan cricket to discriminate against foreign visitors by charging them higher prices..i know sri lankan cricket is in debt but whose fault is that? if they didnt have enough money to rebuild and renovate stadiums for the world cup why didnt they just say they cant afford to co host the world cup? even bangladesh are in a better financial situation then them!

Posted by Harvey on (March 24, 2012, 19:59 GMT)

Disappointing stuff from the SLCB. It's hardly England fans' fault that vast quantities of money the SLCB didn't have were squandered on a megalomaniac project to build a new ground in the middle of nowhere for the World Cup, is it? Hopefully some kind of common sense will prevail. They would do well to remember what happened when the WICB did something similar in 2006. The result was a lot of bad feeling and the disastrous World Cup of 2007, where only a tiny fraction of the expected visitors, especially from England but also from other countries, showed up. Of course, the locals, who were completely ignored in the frenzy to milk foreign visitors for every penny, also didn't turn up. Test cricket needs all the help it can get at the moment, and neither pricing out locals nor ripping off travelling supporters is going to help the cause, is it?

Posted by WannaBeRusta on (March 24, 2012, 19:54 GMT)

I paid 60 pounds to see a day of Sril Lanka VS England last summer, so England fans knows how much they have to pay to watch a match there. As far as Sri Lanka and SLC is concerned they want tourists who are willing to pay money and not people whinging over few pounds. Balmy Army - Stop whinging, take your wallets out and enjoy your stay in this wonderful place.

Posted by   on (March 24, 2012, 18:55 GMT)

agree this is a ripoff. SLC should be a bit more considerate.

Posted by SDHM on (March 24, 2012, 18:49 GMT)

The problem for me is the disparity as opposed to the actual prices - when somewhere like Lord's charges £90 for a full day's play, I'm not sure how much you can complain about having to pay $38! Still, 'foreigners' as they put it being asked to pay a considerable amount more is a bit shady to me. Add that on top of travel costs and it really starts to mount too. I hope other boards don't start taking this approach - it would be so easy to milk the Barmy Army seeing as they take huge numbers all over the world.

Posted by yorkslanka on (March 24, 2012, 18:40 GMT)

As a sri lankan, i think its a really poor move by SLC..we should not treat visiting cricekt ans like this for any reason..SLC, you should be ashamed of yourselves...The ticket prices should be the same for all and yet again, SLC are embarrasing us Sri Lankans with their antics...

Posted by Harding119 on (March 24, 2012, 18:37 GMT)

We do have a different fee structure for foreign students. I remember the times when foreign students had to pay over 4 times fees. This is another matter. The board needs to be transparent. We have a right to know of policy changes re ticket pricing. Basically what the Board has now done is turning away the tourists. Sri Lanka has had a lot to offer us, and in combining cricket with sun and sea has been a bonus just like how it is when touring the Caribbean. Tourist trade is booming and it looks like the killing of the goose that lays the golden egg. Philip Harding, Surrey

Posted by randikaayya on (March 24, 2012, 18:12 GMT)

They can't impose two prices for the same stand for locals and foreigners!!! I would like to see SLC having a sellout crowd with the cheapest ticket being 1000 rupees!! Normally in tests outside Colombo there is a good local turnout and I just hope that they don't deny these spectators a chance to see their heroes take on colonial oppressors from days gone by

Posted by simon_w on (March 24, 2012, 18:03 GMT)

tough one -- on the one hand, no-one wants to feel they're being taken advantage of, but on the other, it's still good value, and you have to opportunity to support Sri Lanka cricket... SLC haven't handled it especially well, by the sound of it, but I think if I was there (I'm not, sadly), I'd probably just pay (perhaps alternating -- one day in the expensive seats, then next on the Fort?)

Posted by AadeeSL on (March 24, 2012, 16:23 GMT)

I'm a Galle boy.I always loved to watch matches sitting on Forts(Even our school's big match).that's a marvelous experience you could get once in a while for life time.The freedom you have there,cannot be experienced in the stands.Sitting under sun,while mild sea breeze caress you,you'll never find it uncomfortable there.My advice to Barmy army crew is, let the officials do what they wanted to do,you just enjoy Cricket with friendly ever green locals at Galle fort ramparts.it's free,you can go any where you wish,even more enjoyable than sitting on the stands.Music,Dancing,Sri Lankan papare bands all out there.even food is lot cheaper.Even the police is there,so no need to worry about security.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (March 24, 2012, 15:59 GMT)

I paid AU$60 to watch India get pummelled by Australia on day 2 of the recent Sydney Test when I was hoping to see some Aussie wickets fall so I wouldn't mind paying about $40 to see England play. I expect to be paying up to AU$500 to see the whole match from the stands the next time England are out here. If I had shelled out for an air fare and had been expecting to pay significantly less for tickets for up to ten days of cricket then I might be a little miffed though. I can understand SLC seeing this as an opportunity to help their bottom line but I think that they have misjudged the England supporters relative financial positions. At least they have made concessions when requested though, so respect for that.

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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