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The Barmy Army’s Ashes Predictions

embraceaustraliaadmin | Saturday, August 7th, 2010 at 1:25 am

Some of the Barmy Army fans in action.

Some of the Barmy Army fans in action.

Now most of us will have heard of the Barmy Army; it’s a term given to a dedicated group of fans who cheer the England cricket team on and are famous for their witty and good-humoured chants and songs. In this exclusive interview the co-founder of the Barmy Army, Paul Burnham, talks to us at Embrace Australia about his predictions for the Ashes series in Australia in November and explains the enduring appeal of the Barmy Army.

The Barmy Army currently has around 300,000 people on their books, with around 4,000 of those being fully paid-up members. Membership of the Army will give you tickets to every England home match, priority bookings, a subscription of their magazine, discount deals and of course an official Barmy Army t-shirt. However you don’t have to be a paid-up member to be a follower of the famous supporters club. The army have supporters as far afield as Pakistan and Sri Lanka and all have one thing in common, they are patriotic, loyal and adventurous, qualities Paul says are needed in order to qualify as a member. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that a cricket fan of the calibre of the Barmy Army is akin to being a football fan, they could not be more different. The Barmy Army appeals to women and families, as well as die-hard cricket fans, because of their good nature and gentlemanly behaviour. Their songs may be loud and catchy but you won’t hear any swearing in them. “We are proud of the way we behave,” says Paul. “You can sit there with young kids without being offended by what goes on.”

So what are the songs that they sing? Well the one entitled simply ‘Barmy Army’ goes to the tune of Lord of the Dance:

 

 

Sing sing wherever you may be

We are the famous Barmy Army

And we’ll cheer England on wherever they may be

And we’ll sing them onto another victory …

 

Other songs poke fun at the Australian fans and players and whilst some of the wording may be quite close to the bone, there is no hint of malice and not a single swear word. These chants are about as far removed from football chants as you can get.

Yet the Barmy Army haven’t always gone down so well with the public, especially with certain broadsheet newspapers. Dominic Lawson from The Independent once referred to them as “boorish chauvinists” and accused them of drinking a “truly stupendous amount of beer” and making so much “incessant din” that “real cricket-lovers” were refusing to attend Test matches. So how does the Barmy Army answer that kind of criticism? “That’s simply not true” says Mr Burnham. He points out that cricket has many sponsorship deals from drinks companies such as Marston’s Pedigree Ale and Victoria Bitter. Yet the Barmy Army does not encourage drinking he says. So what about the singing and chanting? Mr Burnham explained that the singing came about because of the behaviour of some of the Australian fans. “We got fed up of them burning our flag, swearing at us and behaving as some football fans behave” he says, “we take the mickey out of the Aussies without swearing” although he does say that the majority of Australian fans love the Barmy Army, especially the women who can feel uncomfortable with the macho image of Australian cricket fans. 

The Barmy Army predict an England victory.

The Barmy Army predict an England victory.

But the Australians have often found the Barmy Army baffling; “The cricket fans in Australia have always been great adversaries, but they don’t do the singing” explains Paul. However relations between Australian and English fans is generally good-humoured. “The Australians absolutely love us,” says Paul, “whether or not they will still love us when we end up winning the ashes I don’t know.”

Is this a prediction? “I think we’re going to play very well over there, Australia may win one test but England will win two and three and by the time we get to Sydney I think we’ll be watching an Ashes that has already been won and retained and a victory in the series will be brilliant.” You heard it here first!

So what does the England Cricket Team make of their band of loyal supporters? According to Paul they love the Barmy Army. “The cricket team love people jumping up shouting their name, singing songs about them, who wouldn’t?” He says that the support of the fans helps the cricketers on the pitch. “We are just a small group of people in the crowd but the great thing is that we tend to make more noise than the rest of the ground put together and the England boys will know that we’re there.” They certainly will!

But after so many England fans travelled to South Africa to watch a disappointing World Cup, will there be any fans who can stump up the fare to fly out to Australia? “I think a lot of people didn’t go to South Africa because they didn’t like the fact that the accommodation prices, airline and ticket prices were so high.” Paul comments. “With football you want to be there for the semi-final and final but you’d have to be out there for an awful long time and people have got jobs. Fans were holding off hoping England would do a lot better than they did and maybe now they have a bit of money in their back pocket. Once they see how good the cricket is, I reckon there’s a lot more potential for people to book up, but later on than they would have done 4 years ago.” 

Paul’s tip is to go to the Barmy Army website and book your tickets for the Tests and your accommodation as early as possible and leave sorting your flights  until the last minute as many travel agents have held back tickets hoping for a high demand. Nearer the time they will release these fares at cut price deals to try and sell them all, so late bookers could bag a bargain.

Could Sydney be the scene of a glorious England Ashes victory?

Could Sydney be the scene of a glorious England Ashes victory?

The Barmy Army also have their own travel deals on their website which Paul is keen to talk about. “We are not organising flights this time round with our packages so you get the flexibility. You can get transfers at your own leisure and in your own time.” He stresses that tickets and accommodation are booked through Cricket Australia, so travellers are guaranteed security. But even if you don’t book through the Barmy Army you can still go onto their website and have a look at the itinerary, so you can catch up with their antics wherever they are. Speaking of antics, in 2003 a huge England flag was rolled out on the steps of the Sydney Opera House by members of the Barmy Army, so what are they planning for this year? “Normally we organise that type of thing when we are out there. I’m sure there will be some big flags and other out of the box ideas but I haven’t heard of them yet, that sort of thing gets arranged whilst we’re out there and everyone is in a holiday mode. We have our alternative Ashes series taking place against the Fanatics. And this year we will all be wearing pink shirts to help raise awareness and money for the McGrath Foundation, who we are supporting  with all our might…” He’s either keeping his cards close to his chest or the rumours of an England flag made up of supporters is false. We’ll just have to wait and see!

The Barmy Army are also offering members the chance to win the trip of a lifetime to watch the fourth and fifth test matches in Melbourne and Sydney, with all flights, transfers and accommodation, including a Christmas lunch with the rest of the Barmy Army in Melbourne. Log onto the Barmy Army website for more information.

And if you fancy catching up with the Barmy Army in Australia, they are taking bookings as late as November so it’s never too late to get your tickets to what could be the best Ashes series yet and a reason for England to celebrate its biggest sporting achievement.

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