The Georgetown Cricket Club (GCC) Ground, Bourda known for hosting many historic test matches with spectators witnessing great performances by cricket’s elite saw what would have been a record-breaking crowd on January 1, when the Georgetown Football Association (GFA) hosted the final of the Banks Beer/GFA Cup.
There was an air of expectancy even before the first half of the third place playoff between Northern Rangers and Guyana Defence Force (GDF) ended, as thousands of spectators filled the stands and firecrackers punctuated the night sky.
Scores of spectators began to enter the venue from as early as 17:00 hrs so as to beat the anticipated crowd of partygoers for the Beenie Man show, which was to follow the football matches. Some chose to arrive late, but this proved a bad decision as many found themselves stuck beyond the gates for hours hoping to gain entry to the already packed ground.
As it grew later, riotous patrons pushed past security personnel and rushed onto the ground, resulting in overcrowding of the facility. The GCC ground was built for a capacity of approximately 12,000; reports are that some 30,000 spectators gained entry with hundreds more opting to lime in Shiv Chanderpaul Drive outside, as there was really no place they could fit inside.
There was some relief when eager fans of Camptown – the winning team – forced past security personnel to access the playing area as they waited for the referee to sound the final whistle signalling their time to celebrate their team’s victory and the start of Reggae/Dancehall Super Star Beenie Man’s concert.
Cross streets and main roads told the story of the thousands in attendance, with their never before seen amounts of vehicles of all kinds. Patrons could also be seen sitting or standing on rooftops as the ground. Some of them even made their way into the VIP pavilion, thus requiring the presence of a police officer in the section reserved for the media.
Whether players or patrons were injured by firecrackers that were being thrown onto the field is not known. However, General Secretary of the GFA Christopher Matthias said searches were carried out on all who entered the facility.
“I guess some persons would have slipped through the cracks and if you noticed there were not a lot of squibs on the ground, unlike the previous time,” he said.
Asked for an estimation of the crowd, Matthias was conservative: “We estimated that you had about 15,000 people in the ground and some say it might have been a little bit more, but we are happy with the turnout.”
However, he said a more accurate figure would be made public after the treasurer would have tallied ticket sales.
Speaking on the security breach at the Shiv Chanderpaul Drive entrance, Matthias said, “There were folks who wanted to get in; some came late, some came for the show but never anticipated that we would have had such a large turnout… We were advising people all the time to turn up early because we anticipated that this would have been the turnout.”
He said too that given the response, next year they will be looking for another facility that could accommodate a larger number of people.
“We have been told that we outgrew GFC last year and now this year we have outgrown GCC. So we are hoping that there is a venue big enough that can accommodate the entire Guyana or all those who would like to come,” he stated.
Banks DIH Sales and Marketing Executive Carlton Joao described the tournament as a phenomenal success. “We were again approached by the Georgetown Football Association to run the second Banks Beer Cup and we had great success in the tournament last year and we thought we could come again this year and it has been an even greater success,” he enthused.
He said they had improved about 60 per cent in the areas of crowd attendance and crowd participation.
“Football was great. We had great weather and congratulations to Camptown for a really good tournament,” he added.
The relationship between Banks and the GFA will continue, he said, adding that he hopes together they can push the development of football.
“There are many things that we would like to do, given the opportunity, in football. We have always been there for football at every level of the sport and this is just ensuring that the players get a chance to play and fans get a chance to party and enjoy good football,” Joao said.
Like Matthias, Joao said they expected the turnout. “We knew that we had pressure with the venue but we had to work with the resources available. But I think that the crowd participation and behaviour was phenomenal and it is a wonderful beginning for the year and I just want to wish everybody a wonderful 2013 on behalf of the Banks family”.
Asked about securing another venue for next year, Joao said that decision rests with the GFA since Banks was the sponsor of the tournament.