The Barmy Army celebrate the fall of a wicket at the SCG during the Ashes Series in 2007. Photo: Dallas KilponenOne of the co-founders of England’s Barmy Army has pleaded for the two sides in Australia’s cricket war to resolve their corrosive pay dispute amid fears that the famous supporters’ group could be bankrupted if the Ashes Test series is cancelled.
“We could go bust if this isn’t sorted out,” Dave Peacock said.
“There are 30,000-plus fans travelling to Australia this year, and they’ve already booked their flights, hotels, tickets and tours.”
A cancellation of the Ashes series could cost the Australian tourism industry $400 million in revenue with tens of thousands of English and Australian fans having booked accommodation and ticket packages for cricket’s most coveted contest.
“[The Ashes] is on the bucket list of so many sports fans who’ve shelled out between £15,000 [$25,000] and £20,000 for the 51 days [of the series],” Mr Peacock said.
“It’s a huge investment and now there’s an element of concern over whether an agreement will be found.”
The Barmy Army has evolved into a professional limited company while still dedicated to making cricket “more fun” with chants, songs and banners.
It was appointed a licensed travel operator of Cricket Australia, the sport’s local ruling body, via its Barmy Travel arm, for the Ashes series.
Sort it out: Co-founder of the Barmy Army, Dave Peacock. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
“We’re already committed to paying for all of this, as well as things like Christmas dinner for 800 to 1000 at the Crown casino in Melbourne, all our merchandising and T-shirts, and plans for a massive New Year’s Eve party in Sydney.
“From a logistical point of view, we would go bust if it didn’t go ahead.”
John O’Sullivan, the managing director of Tourism Australia, said that the always hotly contested Ashes series was a guaranteed winner not just for cricket fans but invariably the Australian tourism industry.
RELATED READINGEmergency meeting: Cricketers warned of Ashes threat”No country supports their cricket team overseas more passionately than the English,” he said.
“With overall honours tied at 32 wins all, this series is all about bragging rights.
“Tickets are already selling faster in the UK than for the last Ashes series held here in Australia and we’re expecting another huge turnout and lots of noise from the Barmy Army.
“The average UK holidaymaker spends around $6200 when they come Down Under but sporting events such as the Ashes attract visitors who stay longer and disperse more widely, so the tourism impacts are much bigger.”
Tourism Australia has been hugely successful in selling the 2017-18 Ashes tour, which starts in Brisbane on November 23and then moves on to Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and finally Sydney.
The pay dispute between Cricket Australia and scores of the game’s leading Australian players has already led to thecancellation of the Australia A tour of South Africaand put thetwo-Test tour of Bangladeshin doubt. It might also scotch the one-day internationals against India and this summer’s Ashes.
David Fleming, Steve Weekes and Clint Bell warm up for Barmy Army action in New Zealand. Photo: Kevin Stent
The bitter dispute is over the revenue-share model that Cricket Australia wants to change to a profit-share system, and that players want to retain.
Mr Peacock said that England fans were incredulous that the impasse between Cricket Australia and the players’ union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, had not already been resolved.
“Why can’t they get on and talk together and negotiate together and thrash out a deal so we can all get on and plan ahead?” Mr Peacock said.
“In England, the PCA [Professional Cricketers’ Association] meets with the board on a regular basis, so we can’t believe that isn’t happening in Australia and they’re not having sensible dialogue to sort it out.
“All this bad publicity is bad for fans, bad for sponsors, bad for the game. We’ve already got 1100 people booked on our official tour, which is double the number from 2013, and then there’s a huge number of independent fans. No one’s winning from this.”
A Cricket Australia submission to an inquiry into Australia’s trade relationship with Britain in March last year said that the 2006-7 Ashes and one-day international series against England generated $317 million in direct expenditure in the Australian economy.
It contributed an additional $54 million in GDP, produced increased regional direct spending of $48 million and created an additional 793 jobs. The 37,000 international visitors spent an average of $10,425 during their stay, over $2000 more than the typical holidaying Chinese visitor to Australia.
Charities would also suffer if the Ashes did not go ahead, Mr Peacock said. This year, the Barmy Army planned to raise more than £50,000 for the PCABenevolent Fund during the Ashes, having raised the same amount four years ago for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. In 2010, it raised £25,000 for the McGrath Foundation.
“From a charity perspective, it will also have a huge impact,” he said.
“We don’t really have a view on who’s right and who’s wrong as we’re so far removed. It’s not our problem. We just want them to find a solution and we do believe it will eventually all settle down and the Ashes will go ahead.”