The Ticketing Trick
While the blood-curdling roar of the real Bengal tigers prowling the Sundarbans were getting subdued and almost unheard these days for obvious reasons, the cricketing tigers, one had positively hoped, would restore the pride of the nation in a kingly stature. After the not-too-unpredictable dismissal of the cricketing tigers from the first round, a pessimistic group took much pleasure in launching a fierce diatribe on them for failing the fans, some nevertheless hailed them for winning against three major teams. How far they have uplifted the country's image in terms of sporting achievement is a very important issue to think over. But so is the overriding aspect that directly concerns the country's image as a host and, that points to the fundamental question of the country's interest in terms of financial gains.
An inadequate supply against an extremely high demand makes people vie for a ticket.
Photo: Anisur Rahman
Hosting such a big event comes as a blessing for any nation since it promises so many opportunities to boost its business in tourism, hospitality and so on. In a recent press meet, the Sports Minister Ahad Ali Sarker has revealed that the total expenditure for organising and completing the event was no less than Tk 476 crore that included reconstruction of five stadiums and an unprecedented face-lifting of the city. So what has the nation gained in return? In answer to that question, the minister has informed that although the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is yet to report the profit, one can surely be upbeat about a certain amount of profit considering the huge response by the overenthusiastic cricket fans, and the inflow of foreigners throughout the last month. More surprisingly, he has vented his frustration saying that it was very inappropriate of the BCB to not invite him at any of the prize giving ceremonies. Worse, he has revealed, he was given only one ticket of the third quarterfinal match. Such omissions are not known to us, the public. But we do know about the massive ticketing scams in many phases. Based on that knowledge, we can only imagine how much of the profit was lost to a band of unscrupulous, profiteering personalities.
As for other sectors, in spite of all the enormous preparations of the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation and its attractive package deals including accommodation and sightseeing, tourism saw the poorest response in business even though the inflow of foreigners was good.
“We did not leave any stone unturned. But the response of the foreigners was very poor. And we did not make any profit out of it,” says an official of Bangladeh Parjatan Corporation requesting anonymity. Besides a reasonable profit from broadcasting and hospitality, ticketing undoubtedly was the biggest profit-making sector. May be that's why it also involved the biggest scam in the biggest international event of the country.
When sale and distribution of tickets began, the cricket-loving fans proved wrong the long-held idea that Bangladeshis lacked discipline and patience. Some of them had to stand in queue for more than 10 hours while some had to come the next day only to stand in an even longer queue. However, the frown on their faces were washed away instantaneously when they got the ticket and smiled as if they were holding a gift from the heaven. But the worst happened to those who despite all their patience and hard work, were deprived of a ticket, not because all the tickets were sold out, but alas, because the responsible officials involved with the BCB and the banks were allegedly involved in a ticketing scam. Out of frustration, a lot of ticket-seekers were agitated and beat up by police. Many of them resorted to vandalism. Ahad Ali Sarker also admits to the irregularities in selling tickets, “We have heard about a ticketing scam and some other irregularities. We will look into all matters as soon as possible.”
Cricket enthusiasts are seen sitting, gossiping, and some sleeping after long hours of wait
without knowing if they'll get a ticket. Photos: Star File
The ticketing began on January 2 through different branches of City Bank and Agrani Bank. Fifty outlets of City Bank and thirty of Agrani Bank sold about 1,00,000 tickets to the public for the six games at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur and a modest 29,000 for the two games at Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong. Tickets were also distributed at district levels. Although allegations of scam were reported at these outlets, bank officials passed the blame on the inadequate supply of tickets and the very complicated online ticketing process of Kyazoonga, a sports ticketing company appointed by ICC.
“The demand was extremely high against an inadequate supply which made people suffer indescribably. Another reason was the online process that took more time than usual,” reveals a City Bank official requesting anonymity. The Kyazoonga process was time-consuming as well as complicated not least because it provided through the banks only a voucher and one had to pick up the ticket from the match venue, red tape that left thousands of fans cheated out of attending a warm-up match between Bangladesh and Pakistan. The ticket fiasco of that match also gave us an idea of the extent to which BCB mishandled its ticketing responsibilities. A huge number of voucher-holders were deprived of their rightful tickets while hundreds of seats were seen empty during the match.
The reason for the inadequate supply of tickets lies elsewhere. Against a capacity of 25,000 seats at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, the BCB dispensed for each match only a total of 12,700 tickets to the public. A greater part of the rest was reserved for ministers, members of parliament, bureaucrats and members of different sports federations, divisional and district associations, and the ICC. Still, several thousand tickets were left at the disposal of the BCB. It was through this huge number of tickets that remained beyond public reach that the reinless black ticketing was made possible. A BCB official on condition of anonymity has alleged that many sports clubs and federations were also enormously involved with black ticketing.
Asked about dispensing half of the tickets to the public, GS Hasan Tamim, chairman of BCB's ticket and seating committee, says,
“Several factors were responsible for this. For one thing, a good number of the tickets were allocated for the ICC. Then there were the local high-ups, and sports clubs and federations. For all these reasons, we had to come to a unanimous decision about that.” But the big question remains for tickets distributed exclusively by BCB without any obligation to any other organisation. About this Tamim says, “Well, although I'm aware of some incidents of black ticketing, I know no such thing as a large number of tickets having been embezzled by BCB officials. All I know is a number of unscrupulous persons who got many of the reserved tickets misused their rights and sold them out in the black market. But BCB had nothing to do with this.” As of writing this report, the BCB President AFM Mustafa Kamal could not be reached.
What Tamim says in defence is astute, but is hard to buy. The large-scale mishandling of selling tickets and its distribution through improper channels could not have been done as successfully if BCB officials were not involved with it. But to the relief of those who suffered, the sports minister has promised to form a probe committee to look into the matters. The persons responsible for the scam should be put behind bars not only because such mismanagement tainted the image of the country and brought about immense suffering to the spectators but also because this incurred a huge loss to the exchequer.
(R) thedailystar.net 2011