'Barmy Army' pay up for Ashes
Sydney - The last time England's 'Barmy Army' came to Australia for an Ashes series they mocked the locals by singing: "We're fat, we're round, three dollars to the pound."
But that's unlikely to be the case during this year's Ashes series as the global financial crisis and the soaring Aussie dollar have dramatically cut the number of English tourists travelling to Australia to support their team, reports said on Sunday.
Around 37 000 British fans travelled to Australia to watch a 5-0 drubbing in the last Ashes series here four years ago.
For fans making the journey this time the cost in exchange-rate terms will be more than 50% higher.
Cricket Australia said that thousands of tickets reserved for tourists might be reallocated to locals as it becomes apparent numbers will be well down on those who visited during the 2006-07 Ashes.
"We will be doing a review in mid-November and it is possible that some of the tickets allocated to inbound tourism that are returned to Cricket Australia are put back onto the market to become available to the Australian public," CA spokesperson Peter Young told the Sun-Herald.
"If that happens, there could be a few more tickets available to venues that are currently sold out of general admission tickets."
Young said the impact of the global financial crisis in Britain was likely to cause overseas supporter numbers to dwindle.
"The particular impact of the global financial crisis has affected the Barmy Army demographic, which has a high number of white collar professionals in its membership," he said.
"The exchange rate is another big factor. It's now twice as expensive for them to visit as it was last time."
But CA said even should this eventuality occur its bottom line was unlikely to be affected.
"We would expect the net effect to be zero for us," Young said.
"If the inbound visitor tickets don't sell, they'll be available to the general public and, given the extraordinary demand for Ashes tickets, we'd expect them to sell quickly."
Barmy Army co-founder David Peacock said the organisation expected to sell about 1000 tour packages but felt early positive results for England could lead to a rush of travelling fans.
"If England are in a strong position we are expecting huge numbers to make last-minute bookings to get to the (fourth Test) Melbourne Cricket Ground and (fifth Test) Sydney Cricket Ground, as they are willing to pay the increased costs to hopefully see the first victory on Australian soil since 1986-87," Peacock said.
England recently moved to fourth on the Test rankings as Australia dropped to fifth place following their 2-0 series loss to India this month.
England, who hold the Ashes, take on Australia in the first of five Tests at Brisbane's Gabba ground on November 25.