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Any replacement tickets? The informal economy of cricket is returning

Issued on: May 9th, 2021 – 16:42Changed: 05/09/2021 – 16:40

London (AFP)

The gates at London’s Oval cricket ground had just opened before the fourth day of the fourth test between England and India on Sunday, but a frenzied marketplace was already active.

As fans huddled in pubs and cafes in the morning sun, an informal economy of ticket sellers and unofficial merchandise sellers crowded the streets to do their business.

Advertisers buy as many tickets as they can get their hands on and sell them above face value to fans who desperately want to see their sports heroes.

And with stadium capacity restrictions abolished in England in July, advertisers were able to enjoy high revenue again after a pandemic-induced famine while games were played behind closed doors.

“I’ve been doing this for 60 years. There was no work last year because of Covid,” one advertising medium with glasses told AFP before continuing to creep on the floor.

The governing body of English cricket warns against buying tickets from advertisers as invalid duplicates and fakes can leave fans stranded outside of the venues and out of their own pocket.

There are also fears that the astronomical cost of some tickets will free people from cricket and make the game less accessible.

– ‘vermin’ –

In front of the two underground stations near the oval in south London, groups of mostly middle-aged men who offered offers to buy or sell cavorted and rhythmically repeated their coded shouts of “all replacement cards” to passers-by.

Many wore gray flat caps and large, dark coats while puffing on their cigarettes.

Three Indian fans handed a heap of cash to a recruiter wearing an English cricket hat while another recruiter showered profanity on a prospect after the transaction was abandoned.

“They’re bugs. They just hit people in the face and I don’t like them,” 46-year-old teacher Natalie Smith told AFP.

One advertiser who was holding a bundle of tickets even advertised his goods in an Indian language in order to appeal to his target group.

Another seller offered his tickets to three fans for £ 220 each, although ticket prices on official websites started at £ 131.

“I find them (advertisers) totally irritating. They are annoying and can be intimidating,” said England supporter Peter Norman, a 69-year-old pensioner.

“They belong to a time that I thought would be over with the advancement of technology.”

“It’s especially annoying knowing that a lot of tickets have been purposely bought up for resale to advertisers – it’s just irritating,” he added.

– Suez crisis –

Street vendors filed flags, shirts, hats and other items in alleys and driveways to fans looking for bargains.

Ahmed Shakir, 37, has topped up his wages as a cashier in this way for 12 years and enjoyed the higher sales at the weekend.

“Most Indians spend money. England (fans) don’t buy a lot – they just drink, ”he told AFP.

“If there is sport, we make something out of it. If there is no sport, then it is really difficult.”

A local resident called “Amazing Grace”, 60, who was enthusiastic about cricket, used a friend’s driveway to sell face masks and hand sanitisers as well as merchandise and used the profits to buy tickets.

But the aftermath of a container ship’s blockade of the Suez Canal in March is still causing supply bottlenecks and has forced them to raise prices, with stocks being imported mainly from India, China and Malaysia.

“The blockage is getting worse. We don’t have hundreds of things all the time, we don’t win from them, ”she said. “The blockage is getting worse. We don’t have hundreds of things all the time we don’t win from them, “she said.

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