The fallout of the fall of Sir Allen Stanford continues and, while West Indies cricket was most heavily involved with Stanford, most of the hand-wringing and downright shame seems to be coming out of England.
When cricket’s superstars took home fistfuls of cash playing in the Indian Premier League last year, England’s players missed out due to the start of the English season clashing with the IPL. Players such as Kevin Pietersen grumbled and, given that he is known to look out for No.1, the possibility of the star batsman turning his back on England to play in the IPL could not be discounted.
So when Stanford flashed some cash at the England and Wales Cricket Board, proposing a five-year, $100 million series to take on his Stanford All Stars – the West Indies in dark glasses and fake moustaches – England leapt at the chance.
The ECB looked like crass sellouts when Stanford landed his helicopter on the hallowed turf of Lord’s Cricket Ground with a trunk full of banknotes to seal the deal. It has emerged now that Stanford’s chopper was rented and his name, emblazoned in gold, was affixed just prior to the flight. England had well and truly been conned.
Today, the Texas billionaire stands accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of perpetrating an $8 billion (U.S.) fraud, with golf and baseball players also on the alleged victims list.
While the English Cricket Board has had to shelve plans for a four-nation tourney, the West Indies Cricket Board is an uglier situation. The Stanford Super Series saw the WICB dragged into court by its main sponsor, Digicel, claiming its contract covered any team that purported to be the West Indies.
No matter how one spun it, Stanford’s team was the West Indies and an arbitration court agreed.
It is highly unlikely that Digicel will choose to renew its contract when it expires in 2012.
Any thoughts of Stanford stepping in outright to fund the WICB are also ash, which could potentially put West Indies cricket in the most perilous position it has ever seen. Stanford’s 12-man advisory panel, made up of former West Indies cricket greats, was largely seen in a positive light, but it also meant that the most influential voices in West Indies cricket had no criticism of Stanford.
Ultimately, two members of the panel, Michael Holding and Ian Bishop, stepped down, saying that despite what he professed, Stanford didn’t really care about West Indies cricket.
Thoughts of Stanford’s altruism were banished when he started to woo foreign cricket boards. West Indies cricket was just an accessible and convenient commodity that Stanford could use to latch on to business opportunities in the UK and beyond.
Stanford is gone now, leaving many dreams shattered. Territorial boards in the Caribbean will sorely miss his much-needed funds. Even Cricket Canada had held out faint hopes of getting some of Stanford’s cash.
A letter was sent to him in September 2007, wishing to explore the possibility of Canada’s participation in the regional tournament, but no reply ever came.
Stanford could emerge from his mess completely exonerated, but no one in cricket will want anything to do with him.