By Dinouk Colombage
Furious fans wanting to attend Sri Lanka’s ICC Cricket World Cup matches have been accusing Sri Lanka Cricket of mass scale fraud as allegations emerged of match tickets being sold on the black market with massive mark ups.
And indeed they were. Throughout last week after the ticket counters had been closed and Sri Lanka Cricket insisted the match between Sri Lanka and England was “sold out”, thousands of tickets continued to be on sale at black market prices around and near the P. D. Sirisena grounds.
Dozens of three-wheeler drivers touted what appeared to be an unlimited number of tickets for the world cup match held yesterday at the R. Premadasa Stadium.
The Sunday Leader in fact purchased a ticket valued at Rs. 50 for Rs. 2,500 from a three-wheeler driver less than a kilometer from the Premadasa Stadium. Later we were offered 20 tickets for the same match originally priced at Rs. 500 for Rs. 3,000 per ticket.
Questioned on how they were in possession of these tickets three wheeler drivers told us they had “stood in line and purchased” the tickets “like everyone else.”
The issue is “everyone else” could not buy tickets that easy. Furthermore, they appear to have in their possession an unlimited number of tickets. The Sunday Leader visited the area on two consecutive days and dozens of tickets were still on sale at exorbitant rates.
Other Sri Lankans also desperate to buy tickets for yesterday’s match told The Sunday Leader that they had been offered grand stand tickets in the same area for as much as Rs. 9,000 per ticket.
Before the World Cup began the International Cricket Council, along with the host cricket boards; promised the audiences that there would be ample opportunity for everyone to purchase tickets. Initially the tickets were sold online through a ticketing company, ‘Kyazoonga’ affiliated with the ICC, whilst the rest of the tickets were sold to the public through the local cricket boards.
All the matches involving the host nations were declared sold out months before the tournament started. Only the Rs. 50 tickets (Rs 300 for the final round) were put on sale prior to each game.
The Sunday Leader spoke to James Avery, a spokesperson of Kyazoonga, the online ticketing company. He explained that they had been given 5% of the tickets for each match to be sold online. The rest of the tickets would be distributed amongst the host nations, relevant cricket boards and companies connected to the ICC. Avery explained that online ticket sales for the semi-finals and finals were done through a lottery method as the demand for the tickets was very high. The rest of the tickets were distributed to the host nations and participating teams’ boards following the conclusion of the quarter finals.
Suraj Dandeniya, Head of the World Cup Organising Committee admitted that ICC World Cup match tickets were indeed being sold on the black market. He however insisted Sri Lanka Cricket was not involved in the illegal sales. He explained that the illegal sale of tickets was being carried out by private citizens who had purchased the tickets, and were now selling them at high prices. When asked about the allegations that the board had held back tickets so they could sell them on the black market, he insisted that these were baseless accusations.
He explained that the ticket sales in Sri Lanka were carried out properly and in an organised manner. He further explained that 17,000 to 20,000 tickets were provided to Sri Lanka Cricket to sell to the public, 5% of the total tickets were sold online, whilst the rest was distributed amongst affiliated companies and the opposition team’s cricket board. He added that semi-final tickets were not sold out as many people were unsure of who would be competing. He added that until the quarter finals were complete the ICC would not release all the tickets. This is to ensure that there would be a fair distribution of the tickets, he said.
Dandeniya explained that anyone who stands in line to purchase the Rs. 50 tickets were sold only two tickets. He further explained that after they had purchased the tickets they cannot be stopped from selling them from a higher price. He maintained that as long as the demand for the tickets remained the illegal sales would continue.
Dandeniya dismissed the fact that hundreds if not thousands of tickets are being sold at Maligawatte for black market prices saying, “they (the three-wheeler drivers) could have got together and purchased a few dozen tickets which is what they are now selling on the black market”. Meanwhile, The Sunday Leader informed the Inspector General of Police, Mahinda Balasuriya of what was taking place at Maligawatte. He thanked the newspaper for making a complaint saying, ‘’I will look into this’’.