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April 17 (Bloomberg) -- Australian cricketers should stop moaning about the World Cup being too long and enjoy the money they'll make from the event, said Malcolm Speed, chief executive officer of the sport's ruling body.

Ricky Ponting, captain of defending champion Australia, and opening batsman Matthew Hayden said last week that the seven- week tournament in the Caribbean was dragging on and should be trimmed for the 2011 edition. Gaps between matches for some teams have been as long as nine days.

``If this World Cup had happened at a different time, the Australians would be in the West Indies playing four Test matches and seven one-dayers over a 10-week period,'' Speed said in an interview in Barbados. There would be ``minimal television coverage, minimal prize money and a very small proportion of the profile that this event is having,'' he said.

The 15-man Australia squad stands to earn $2.24 million in prize money if it wins its third straight title or $1 million by finishing runner-up. For regular one-day games, players get match fees of $3,300 and compete for ``much less'' prize money than at the World Cup, Australia spokesman Philip Pope said in an interview.

The $300 million of World Cup revenue generated by television, sponsorship and advertising is split between the competing countries, said Speed, who heads the Dubai-based International Cricket Council.

`Learn Lessons'

Speaking in the President's Suite at the refurbished Kensington Oval, Speed defended the council against the latest round of criticism of a tournament that has yet to settle on a successful format after nine editions over 32 years.

Cricket's biggest event was expanded this year to 16 teams from 14 and extended by a week from the 2003 event in South Africa. The second-round phase lasting almost a month has featured many matches with little bearing on the overall outcome, including yesterday's victory by Australia over Sri Lanka. Both had already reached the semifinals.

Chris Dehring, the tournament's chief executive, said the event had been extended to allow a reserve rain day after every game, although that has only been needed once.

Addressing reporters in Barbados last week, Ponting challenged organizers to ``learn lessons'' from the event to make a ``better World Cup'' in four years.

Speed, an Australian who qualified as a lawyer, said his countrymen should be happy with the rest time between World Cup games because they often complain about playing too much cricket. International players' union president Tim May last year threatened a strike unless the workload was lightened.

``They say there are too many matches and they don't enjoy that, so let's enjoy the World Cup for what it is,'' Speed said.

Small Crowds

World Cup organizers have had criticism from former players after many matches took place in front of sparse crowds in purpose-built stadiums miles from urban centers. The ticket price range of $25 to $100 was too high for locals, said ex- Windies captain Viv Richards after seeing the host team perform to a half-full crowd in Antigua at a stadium named after him.

Speed said some attendances had been ``disappointing.'' He said the council wasn't responsible for setting prices and blamed local organizing committees for agreeing a fixed pricing structure across the nine host countries, some with economies one-fortieth the size of the poorest U.S. state.

``They are issues that the local organizing committees should have taken into account,'' Speed said. ``We want to see full cricket grounds at every match that's played at a Cricket World Cup.''

`Superficial View'

Dehring said his organization took full responsibility for setting ticket prices after consulting regional governments and local committees.

Speed's view that prices should have been staggered was ``superficial,'' he said, adding that other reasons such as the distance spectators had to travel to grounds for matches that were also being televised should be taken into account.

``How would you explain that for a West Indies game in Guyana, which ostensibly has the poorest economy, every ticket was sold, whereas in Antigua, which has a stronger economy, the tickets weren't all sold,'' Dehring said in a phone interview.

Speed's ruling body has also been charged with depriving the event of traditional Caribbean flavor by imposing restrictions on fans taking food, drink, cooking apparatus and musical instruments into stadiums.

Last week, the council scrapped its rules requiring supporters to seek advanced written permission for instruments, meaning recent matches in Barbados played out to the sound of steel drums and trumpets. Speed said there had never been a problem with the atmosphere at the grounds.

``I was at matches early in the event where there was a lot of noise,'' he said. ``I can't help it if people want to take a critical approach to all issues.''
 
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