Barmy Army, the unofficial 12th man of the England team

The factor linking all the members of the Barmy Army together is their love for England and the game of cricket.

Members of the Barmy Army in Mumbai.   -  North Stand Wankhede Twitter

The Barmy Army has over 3000 members; the number of supporters travelling depends on the tour and the venues.   -  Getty Images

England is known to have one of the most vociferous group of cricket fans around the world. Most of the stadiums in the UK have a carnival like atmosphere and one of the key reasons for that is the Barmy Army — a semi-organised group of English fans who travel with the team around the globe.

“Anybody who wants to consider themselves Barmy Army can do it, all they have to do is be respectful and behave themselves,” says Andy Thompson, the tour manager of the Barmy Army for the India tour, who spoke exclusively to Sportstar.

The group describes itself as the unofficial 12th man of the England team, who always support the side. “We have a great relation with the players, both current and former, Matthew Hoggard is our ambassador. The players appreciate us and we appreciate them,” Andy explains.

The Barmy Army has over 3000 members; the number of supporters travelling depends on the tour and the venues. Taking India as an example, Andy said, “Mumbai is a very popular venue and everyone wants to watch a game at the Wankhede Stadium. It’s a great city, so we had around 1000-1500 people travelling there. In Chennai, too, we have around 500-600.”

“International travelling is expensive, but it depends on the tour also. In Australia, for the Ashes, plenty of people will be travelling, including youngsters.” He roughly estimates the number to be around 5000-6000. (Watch the Barmy Army chant below)

But Andy says that the average age of the group is high, somewhere between the late 40s and early 50s, but to say it is limited to just rich old men watching cricket would be wrong. “We have all sorts of people, like postmen who save their money, stay in cheap places. A place like India can be toured on a low budget, if you stay at budgeted hotels. But the people I’m attending, too, are mostly retired, who want to stay at comfortable places.”

The factor linking all of them together is their love for England and the game of cricket.

Despite being popular all around the globe, the group doesn't have an easy relationship with ECB. “The ECB are ambivalent towards us but the counties with Test playing grounds, except Lord's, are happy to engage with us and help us with ticket allocations,” says Andy.

The Barmy Army gets seat allocation all over the world. In England they have tied up with the local counties who block seats for them to ensure that all of them sit together.

Talking about the group's experience in India, Andy has good things to say about the country. “I have been to India many times, I love the country but it can be frustrating sometimes. English is widely spoken but it's not the first language. Getting yourself understood, especially to auto drivers can sometimes get to you. The style of dealing with people is also different as compared to Europe. Here, they want to please everyone at the same time. In Europe you deal with customers on a one-on-one basis which is a lot quicker.”

But the group has made the most of its time in India. “In Mumbai we met the North Stand gang, invited them over to our party and gave them a signed flag. They were some young, really good guys.”

Barmy Army will be hoping that the England team can give them a resounding farewell with a victory in Chennai.

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