Cricket: Ticketing confusion casts dark shadow

By Andrew Alderson

World Cup organisers are facing scrutiny from the International Cricket Council and fans over the organisation of today's match between India and England at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.

It follows scenes of mayhem during the week as an estimated 30,000 crowd queued for the 7000 remaining tickets after the match was transferred from Eden Gardens in Kolkata in late January because of uncompleted development work.

The tickets sold out within three hours, leaving hundreds of fans angry and disappointed. Jostling and insubordination saw police unleash a baton charge to 'keep the peace'; violence ensued.

Scenes of the drama were broadcast around the world. The incident has produced another sporting PR disaster for a nation determined to prove itself as a host after a swag of gaffes at the Commonwealth Games in October.

The situation had even been predicted by the ICC in a letter to its president Sharad Pawar, who has plenty of political clout in India. The letter said the demand for tickets created the "potential for chaos and physical injury when the box office sales open". Few precautions were taken.

However, World Cup organisers are facing low sales for matches not involving India. Pressure is being exerted by media to make more tickets available to the public so largely empty stadiums can be filled.

The problem lies with the fact the tickets have been sold online or over the counter via the country's various cricket associations rather than a centralised agency. This has lead to miscommunication and allegations of cronyism.

Of the 33,000 seats at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, venue for the final, only 5100 are available to the public. The rest are already allocated to stakeholders such as members, sponsors and the ICC. Likewise at Eden Gardens, 12,000 seats are available to the public. The remaining 48,000 are sewn up in deals.

The decision to hold back tickets has created debate on local talk shows. Working out of Mumbai on the Times Now television panel at the Cup, former Black Caps fast bowler Shane Bond lamented the lack of a policy like New Zealand's approach to the Rugby World Cup, where sales were organised months in advance.

The answer lies in the choking layers of bureaucracy that envelop any process in the Indian system - whether it is filling out an initial form to getting processed through several sets of hands further down the chain. It is designed to enhance employment - but the more hands, the greater the chance of inefficiency.

Another of Bond's panellists suggested that a fee to become a member of a cricket association brings better access to tickets. But in Indian society - as in many Western cultures - there is still an element of 'who you know' to be negotiated before that membership can be gained.

Ironically there is still debate whether Chinnaswamy Stadium will be full for the India/England match. Capacity is estimated to be anywhere between 40,000 to 50,000 and it is unknown how many ticketholders from the original venue in Kolkata will take up the offer to travel and grab one of 10,000 tickets made available as a goodwill gesture. There is also a quota for the Barmy Army.

- Herald on Sunday

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