Barmy Army scoffs at hooligan fears

The Barmy Army, a group of die-hard English cricket fans, have scoffed at fears hooligans will accompany a flood of up to 50 000 British tourists expected in Australia during the upcoming Ashes tour.

The comments came after New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma said on Tuesday he had sought intelligence from British police on known troublemakers in a bid to stop anti-social behaviour at the Sydney Cricket Ground, site of the fifth and final Ashes Test in January.

The Barmy Army estimated its 1 700-strong membership would swell to up to 5 000, with a further 35 000 to 50 000 British tourists likely to be in the country over the three months of the tour, which starts November 23.

But Barmy Army co-founder Dave Peacock denied in a statement that British cricket fans were anything like their sometimes-violent soccer counterparts.

“To suggest that football hooligans will travel halfway round the world at great expense in the middle of the football season, just months after spending fortunes following England at the World Cup is quite extraordinary,” he said.

Victoria Police Superintendent Mick Williams, who will run security during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, said he was more concerned about the behaviour of Australian supporters.

“They [the Barmy Army] are very well-organised and actually control a lot of their own people. In fact, we tend to have more problems with our own local spectators than visiting spectators,” he told The Age newspaper.

Barmy Army organiser Paul Burnham said if any trouble did start, Cricket Australia’s decision not to give his group blocks of seats would make it worse.

“We’re not saying that there is never any trouble at cricket grounds—there are always a few idiots on both sides—but Cricket Australia’s ticketing arrangements haven’t helped the situation,” he said.—Sapa-AFP

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