Cricket Australia holds secret talks with eBay

In a surprising twist to a week of turmoil, Cricket Australia (CA) has held talks with eBay. Contrary to what many think, negotiations have nothing to do with stamping out scalping. Hot air from CA CEO, James Sutherland about cancelling tickets that are on-sold is exactly that – hog wash. All bullies are experts at the art of bluff and bluster. The secret talks are exploring the possibility of an exclusive deal between CA and EBay, where all tickets, to all cricket matches in Australia, will be sold directly on eBay, starting with the 2007/08 season. This stroke of genius cuts out the middle men – Ticketek and the scalpers – and at least presents a level playing field for all fans.

The reality is (which CA has finally admitted), that CA can do absolutely nothing to stop scalpers. So “if you can’t beat ’em, join em”. Let me just say that CA’s main contention is not that their loyal Cricket Family is being ripped off by scalpers. The underlying grievance is that the market has shown that tickets are worth hundreds, or thousands of dollars but CA can only charge a paltry $47 for a concourse ticket.

In an even more extraordinary development, it has been revealed that CA is discussing with the ECB and the Australian Players Association, the possibility of extending the Ashes series to 12 matches, with eight Tests being held at the SCG. When asked about this extraordinary proposal, given the recent complaints made by players about having to play “too much cricket”, James Sutherland said “When Dire Straits toured in 1985, the unprecedented demand for tickets saw the Sultans of Swing jamming for 17 gigs at the Entertainment Centre. It worked well back then, and is now standard practice for rock ‘n’ roll acts, and we can’t see why the same principles can’t be applied to give cricket fans what they want.”

It was in Year 11 Economics that I became a devout disciple of Milton Friedman’s doctrine of free trade. So really, I can’t criticise who gets to buy tickets or who can sell tickets for the highest possible price. If a whole lot of Englishmen manage to but tickets, why should they not be allowed to. I don’t hold CA accountable for too many Poms having access to tickets. I am wondering if Cricket Australia had not hyped this this coming Ashes series so much, and concentrated the market into a two week window, would the buying practice of the public have been more manageable. I haven’t researched to verify this, but my recollection is that the SCG Test has been sold out for the first two days for the past five years. It certainly has been well partonised throughout. It doesn’t take an experienced business analyst to work out that even a small increase in interest would make tickets hard to come by.

I don’t know why CA was surprised by the incredible, overwhelming demand for tickets. They had 128,000 members of their family come “priority ticket day”. I joined the family for the sole purpose of having access to priority tickets. I wonder how many members the CA family had before the priority ticket scheme was hatched. I’d guess about eleven (that’s units, not thousands).

I haven’t given up hope. There are still tickets to be had come 19 June. It is only the allocation of priority tickets has been sold out. CA hasn’t bothered to publicise the volume of that allocation, nor the amount of tickets remaining. Perhaps I’m an optimist, but I am hopeful that I will be able to buy tickets via the normal channels in a couple of weeks. Otherwise I’ll be visiting www.ebay.com.au.

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