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Cricket World Cup venue change angers England fans

Eden Gardens
Eden Gardens, pictured on 1 February, has undergone major renovation

By Sam Sheringham

Barmy Army chief Paul Burnham has hit out at World Cup organisers over a late venue change to one of England's games that has left many fans out of pocket.

The 27 February showdown with India was switched to Bangalore on Monday after it was ruled that Kolkata's iconic Eden Gardens would not be ready in time.

"People are absolutely fuming," said Burnham, co-founder of the fans' group.

"They'd bought tickets, booked flights and accommodation and now it has been pulled last minute," he told BBC Sport.

The match between 1983 champions India and three-time runners-up England at Eden Gardens was to be one of the highlights of the month-long World Cup group stage, with tickets first going on sale last June.

The ground, which held 90,000 people before its recent renovation, is a place of pilgrimage for international cricketers and fans, having first hosted a Test in 1934 and staged the 1987 World Cup final when Australia beat England.

But after a final inspection last week, the International Cricket Council (ICC) ruled that the venue did not meet its standards with regard to "cricket operations, media, broadcast and sponsorship facilities".

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On Monday, the governing body announced that the match would be held in Bangalore, a city more than 1,200 miles away from Kolkata.

"It is very, very disappointing and a sad day for cricket," Burnham added. "And if pleasing media and sponsors is being put forward as the reason, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

"There are lots of fans who were looking forward to travelling to India and embracing the culture and Eden Gardens is a big part of that.

"The life of a Barmy Army member is one where they are trying to go to every single country and certainly all the big grounds.

"Eden Gardens was the one that everyone has been waiting for. "

While fans who booked tickets and travel through the ICC's official tour provider are having their trips rescheduled or being offered full refunds, Burnham said well over 100 Barmy Army members, who had booked independently, face losing considerable amounts of money.

"I've spoken to one chippie (carpenter) who had been saving up for nine months to spend £1,500 on his trip. Another guy who works in the City was angry because he had booked time off work just to go to Eden Gardens.

"I think only about 30% of them will go to the rescheduled fixture in Bangalore."

ICC media and communications chief Colin Gibson said the change of venue was an "unfortunate and sad situation" but stressed the importance of booking tickets and travel through official providers.

"We will do everything we possibly can to help," Gibson told BBC Sport.

WORLD CUP 2011 VENUES
India (29 matches*) - Mumbai, Mohali, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, New Delhi
Sri Lanka (12 matches) - Colombo (R Premadasa Stadium), Hambantota, Pallekele
Bangladesh (8 matches) - Mirpur, Chittagong
*including Kolkata's three remaining games

"The only valid tickets that are out there at the moment are through official tour operators or through our online ticket agency.

"The tour operators will work with spectators to make sure those trips are re-organised for Bangalore rather than Kolkata.

"The ticket agency knows who has the tickets and is already contacting them to help them rearrange their trips."

Cricket Logistics, the ICC's official travel and tour provider, said it was proving easier than expected to find new flights and accommodation for the 3,000 or so people who had booked tickets for the game through them.

"It could have been a lot worse," manager Shirley Rattray told BBC Sport. "Our ground handler in India has been fantastic and we have offered everyone travelling with us alternative accommodation.

"Some people have cancelled because they just wanted to go to Kolkata to see a game in Eden Gardens but it has been a lot less painful that we thought."

The race to prepare Eden Gardens and other World Cup venues carries echoes of the run-up to New Delhi's 2010 Commonwealth Games, which were hit by delays, shoddy workmanship and alleged corruption.

The ICC will pay a further visit to Eden Gardens on 7 February to decide whether it is suitable for the three matches it is scheduled to host - Ireland's matches against South Africa (15 March) and the Netherlands (18 March) and Kenya's encounter with Zimbabwe (20 March).

The 2011 World Cup will be co-hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.



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see also
Bangalore to host England v India
31 Jan 11 |  Cricket
England set for Bangalore switch
30 Jan 11 |  Cricket
Kolkata not ready for World Cup
27 Jan 11 |  Cricket
ICC admits Sri Lanka venues delay
26 Jan 11 |  Sri Lanka
World Cup venues behind schedule
15 Jan 11 |  Cricket
Mumbai lands 2011 World Cup final
14 Oct 09 |  Cricket
India lands 2011 World Cup final
08 Jul 06 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2011 squads
19 Jan 11 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup warm-up matches
16 Feb 11 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2011
09 Mar 11 |  Cricket


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