May 19, 2019

Cricket World Cup in off-field turmoil

A policeman in Bangalore demonstrates a square cut to fans queuing for tickets.

The Cricket World Cup underway in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is being marred by off-field clashes between cricket officials, sponsors and police and fans.

The tournament’s top official Sharad Pawar has been severely criticised after police battered hundreds of fans with bamboo sticks outside Bangalore’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium. The fans were becoming angry at the lack of tickets available to the public for the upcoming match between India and England.

Thousands of fans had camped outside the 50,000-seat M Chinnaswamy Stadium (some for days) were told all 7000 tickets allocated for public sale for Sunday’s India v England game had sold out. A riot followed and batons were used – a lot.

There is a universal code amongst sports fans worldwide that we shouldn’t get ripped off over tickets. It is understandable that the fans got angry in Bangalore. It would have been the same result anywhere in the world.

Only months after the Commonwealth Games hosted by India was marred by poor organisation, the Cricket World Cup is going down the same road, with confusing ticket sales arrangements and incomplete stadiums.

In a letter leaked to the media, crickets governing body the International Cricket Council (ICC) accused its own president Sharad Pawar of mismanagement and said he was “threaten(ing) to undermine” the whole tournament with the way tickets were being distributed – or rather not being distributed – in India.

Pawar, who is also the chairman of the tournament’s Central Organising Committee, was under attack for bringing ICC’s relationship with its corporate sponsors to “breaking point” as they had yet to receive their allocation of tickets despite investing millions of dollars into the Feb 19-April 2 event.

The severity of the situation did not seem to obviously register among those responsible for running the sport.

“The biggest challenge we face today is to meet the expectations of the people, that is not possible, that is never possible,” former player Javagal Srinath, who is now the secretary of the Karnataka Cricket Association responsible for the Bangalore match, told a news conference.

“There is a limit where we can keep people happy. There is not much we can do. Around 7,000 tickets were all sold out in three hours,” a bizarrely grinning Srinath added as he exchanged jokes with the assembled media.

The 70-year-old Pawar, considered to be the richest politician in India, is also president of the Mumbai Cricket Association, which is responsible for the running of the Wankhede Stadium.

On Monday, the official online ticket agency that had been expected to sell 1,000 tickets for the final crashed as 10 million fans tried to log on in just 20 minutes.

Of the 33,000 seats at the Wankhede, around 4,000 are available to the public – 1,000 via an online ballot while some 3,000 have been earmarked for box office sales.

Distribution of tickets for the Cricket World Cup seems to see the vast majority of tickets go vis the ‘old boys’ network of mutual enrichment, while ordinary fans outside of the priviledged circle are left to fight over the crumbs. There are not many crumbs either.

Newswarped gets annoyed when officials forget that it is the fans who fund cricket and make it the success that it is.