Scalpers, fake tickets keep hundreds out of Oval

Hundreds were turned away at the gates of the Queen's Park Oval on Saturday night, deprived of the opportunity to see some of the world's most sought after and highly rated Twenty20 cricketers in action.

In excess of 200 people with legitimate tickets were denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago's last Caribbean Twenty20 match at home against former winners Guyana because of fake tickets, scalpers and unruly patrons.

Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Sunil Narine, Darren Bravo and Kevon Cooper were just some of the big names on show in the much anticipated clash at the Oval on Saturday.

It was reported that the tickets for Saturday were sold out days before and despite calls for persons without tickets to stay away from the venue on the match day, hundreds showed up to fuel the business of scalpers who were selling the $40 tickets for more than $200 on the day.

Co-chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board's (TTCB) international and regional matches committee Patrick Rampersad said the TTCB regretted that so many legitimate ticket holders were denied entrance and blamed a combination of factors for the chaos.

He insisted that the TTCB did not oversell tickets for the matches and that there was a seat available for every ticket they printed.

So why were so many turned away?

Rampersad told the Express: "The fire services decided to close the gates before the 8 p.m. start because the stands were filled. But the stands were not filled," he insisted.

"There were seats available but what you had was people putting coolers and bags on three and four seats in some of the stands and taking up seats that would have gone to other ticket holders.

"I agree that people with legitimate tickets were not allowed. The fire services closed the gates and they did want to re-open.

"They re-assessed the stands and felt they could accommodate a few hundred more but the police did not think it was safe. It would have caused too much pushing because not all the people outside would have been allowed in," Rampersad explained.

He also noted that some persons were coming in through unauthorised entrance points without tickets. Others came in with counterfeit tickets of which he said more than 50 were discovered at one gate.

"We discovered the counterfeit tickets on the basis that the WICB emblem on the left of the ticket was coming off on some of the tickets but obviously we did not discover all."

Rampersad added: "We also suspected that people were coming through unauthorised entrances and there was some level of complicity that allowed some people to come in.

"Imagine the father of one of the national cricketers, who was already in the stadium, went to the gates and made noise and the security allowed him to bring eight people in without tickets.

"When all these things happen, obviously people with legitimate tickets could not get in," said Rampersad.

"It was a combination of factors that led to the situation on Saturday night. We estimate that around 200 or more people with legitimate tickets did not get into the venue.

"We will have to put better systems in place to deal with these types of things in the future," he added.

Asked if legitimate ticket holders who did not get in on Saturday will be refunded, Rampersad said that such a decision has not yet been taken and said it is an issue he will bring to the TTCB this week.

"We have to consult the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). It is a WICB tournament so we will have to raise the issue with them," he said.

By Roger Seepersad