River Wissey Lovell Fuller

A noisy cricketing summer

September 2009

Graham bemoans the behaviour of England's Barmy Army at the test matches

Nobody could escape the fact that this has been an Ashes Season with the teams of England and Australia doing battle over five, five-day Test matches. As you read this, the result will be known and may even have been forgotten, but surely something that we cannot forget is the overpowering presence that the Barmy Army has played.

The Army was started in 1995 when a group of reasonably affluent men decided to fly out to Australia to give support to our beleaguered side - a noble act, but something from which the [present day boors were to evolve. It is strange that the Army is not made up of yobs but well educated and most successful business men.: in fact, they run their own merchandising company, he goods of which are sold world wide. And this is the other point, they do travel to wherever the England Test Side is playing - they say, giving them support but players would, I think, love to see the backs of them.

I make this latest statement because they make an incessant din, constantly chanting "Barmy Army" and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. This makes life for spectators around them very tiring and totally spoils the day. It is also having an effect on parents taking their kids to matches, especially since some of the language is very colourful. I have friends who spent the whole of the World Cup period last year in the Caribbean travelling with the English squad, but so did the Barmy Army, and their holiday turned into a nightmare at times, so much so that they had vowed not to attend test matches any more unless they can be certain of being very far away from the Barmy Army contingent.

The Army presence has also spawned another problem. Because of the noise, it is impossible for spectators to hear whether a batsman has nicked the ball, and now, also the umpires. This has caused the odd bad decision. Cricket used to be a quiet game whilst the action was on, and aid not only to player concentration but also to crowd appreciation. How the Army can think that the England side could be grateful for their support, I really don't know: it makes playing the game far more testing. Anyway, it looks like the tide might be turning. In the Headingly Test in early August, Yorkshire CC took the step of removing the "leader's" trumpet and flag, both items being the rallying call for the Army. It was ostensibly to try and prevent any trouble with the infamous Western Terrace, a group of hooligans who have plagued Yorkshire Cricket Club for years. It seemed to work to a certain extent and I trust other grounds will follow suit. Some people argue that it is a terrible thing to quell support but the Army nowadays are only there to get vary drunk and cause a lot of noise.

Personally, I think that cricket should be played in a quiet atmosphere, giving respect to the players. Let's have lots of support but cheering etc at the correct junctures. And also, certain members of the Test Match Special radio commentary team would be doing a better service by criticizing the Army's antics, rather than going along with them and treating them as fun people. I just hope that an accommodation can be arrived at where both points of view are entertained and going to a Test match can be a pleasurable experience once more.

Graham Forster.

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