Mike Holmans September 18, 2008

That's rich

But really, how terrible is it that players should be able to rake in huge jackpots by winning games of cricket as well as by standing around in a studio in borrowed gear and letting the resultant photographs adorn billboards?
18

Vulgar, tasteless and divisive. Such are the adjectives attached to the Stanford Twenty20 jamboree.

It is allegedly divisive because if the 'England XI' beat the 'Stanford All-Stars', the players who actually play will get a million bucks each and the four who sit in the dressing room will only get a quarter of a million, and those England players who only feature in the Test squad won’t get anything at all.

What a terrible prospect. There will be big differences in the income levels of the various members of the various England squads, and this will have a hugely damaging effect on team unity, or so we are told.

Things could get as dreadful as they are in the Indian team dressing room, where Sachin Tendulkar is a squillionaire and Gautam Gambhir is not. I am sure there are tensions in the Indian dressing room, and that some of the fault lines are between the seniors (mostly very rich indeed) and the juniors (not yet very rich but hoping to be so), but they do not seem to be caused by money. If you, dear reader, are in your mid-thirties, consider how many 20-year-olds you know who aren’t irritating, and then think what it must be like to be cooped up in a dressing room with a bunch of them.

But we do not need to go to India to see inequality of income. There are already vast disparities in the England dressing room, even among the centrally-contracted. Those at the bottom of the scale get about £200K from the ECB, while captain of everything Kevin Pietersen gets something more like £500K. And that’s just basic pay.

The top order get paid considerably more by their bat makers for sporting the company logo on the face of their bat than does James Anderson. There are pictures of Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood on large advertising hoardings promoting exciting ranges of menswear and the like, but none featuring Matt Prior. Attaching his name to a ghost-written mid-career “autobiography” is unlikely to have left Flintoff or even Monty Panesar a poorer man, but insomniacs have yet to be afforded the opportunity to be bored silly by a similar tome featuring Alistair Cook. And so on.

Tastelessness and vulgarity seem to derive from the huge purse riding on a single game as though this was something totally new rather than a return to cricket’s origins. When Lord Frederick Beauclerk and the Duke of Devonshire competed for purses of 5,000 guineas in the 18th century, the stake was the equivalent of a million quid today. Substantial prize money for single games was commonplace until the mid-19th century, when the balance of power shifted.

No longer did the gentry have the basic assurance that the money would simply slosh around between one very rich person and another: the riff-raff professionals had become so good at the game that they would walk off with the dosh. The lower orders could not be trusted to know their place if they acquired great wealth, so the practice of offering large purses ceased, replaced by the hypocrisy of ‘shamateurism’. But really, how terrible is it that players should be able to rake in huge jackpots by winning games of cricket as well as by standing around in a studio in borrowed gear and letting the resultant photographs adorn billboards?

There will be problems caused by the influx of new money. Some players will gamble, drink or otherwise fritter both the money and their careers away, and some who miss out for unlucky reasons will no doubt get insanely jealous.

But the most plaintive predictions of the imminent collapse of civilisation seem to emanate from former players whose experience of international cricket was slight. Having ridden the gravy train in the second class carriage for a couple of suburban stops, they object to a new generation being pampered in first class on a round-the-world tour and from a position of moderate comfort presume to tell the newly rich how bitter and twisted they should feel about the newly very rich indeed.

What was that about vulgarity and tastelessness again?

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Marcus on September 20, 2008, 7:59 GMT

    Why is it that every time an English or Australian writer criticizes the Indian board, or even not criticize something involving England or Australia, they have to be racist? That strikes me as somewhat of a double-standard.

    I think the $1m purse is a bit too much, but I think that generally Stanford's been very good for West Indies cricket. Just look at what the WICB has planned for the money brought in by the T20 series- such as expanding the first-class season and re-establishing the A-team. If this is just a another part of Stanford's process, then I think we should all tolerate a little "vulgarity."

  • Gerard on September 20, 2008, 6:35 GMT

    Comparing the Stanford money to a captain's bonus is a ridiculous argument. Of course the English captain gets paid more than the rest of the team, and the players will have no problem with that.

    What they will have a problem with is teammates who participate in a tournament designed to undermine the game of cricket for ridiculous amounts of money (no, a million dollars is not 'a bit of extra cash', it's an amount that no player could possibly need).

    Any player who participates in this baseball competition should expect to lose the respect of their colleagues (and fans) if their commitment to the national team is ever less than total (eg Andrew Symonds).

  • Naresh on September 20, 2008, 3:14 GMT

    "the players who actually play will get a million bucks each and the four who sit in the dressing room will only get a quarter of a million"

    This seems to be the major difference between Stanford and the other situations you described. It narrows down the "each man for himself" thing to very real terms. And it will be divisive - lets see. It will be good for India to have a divided English team coming to play us - maybe they will even get sledged likewise - what was that about "divide and conquer"?

  • raj on September 20, 2008, 2:59 GMT

    Mike, I bet you dont have the courage to post my previous comment, in full. I have seen this time and again from your compatriots. I mean, do you guys even have a conscience and doesnt it ever prick you?

  • raj on September 20, 2008, 2:58 GMT

    oh! yeah, of course, it is not vulgar. England are involved. Only ICL, IPL etc can be vulgar - because they are run by natives, stupid. Right, Mr Holmans? Seriously, I wonder what Mr. Holsman would have said if this had been organised by the BCCI. Well, usuallyEnglish and Aussie commentators dont bother about being impartisan - and their groundrules are clear, if BCCI is involved, then it is their greed. If Eng and Aus are involved, they are saving the game. I guess Mike will follow that tradition. I bet Mike will berate the BCCI in a few months for some greedy venture in Toronto, whatever, even shamelessly forgetting that this article would still be visible to people and his partisan attitude would be clear to objective observers. In any case, there are very of them in Eng and Aus so his livelihood wouldnt be affected. So I guess they will continue to peddle such mindless one-eyed, biased-towards-Eng-and-Aus articles.

  • Ashok on September 19, 2008, 15:09 GMT

    Stanford's purse is not dictated by market forces. If so, the English or WI league would have done this themselves. The two teams are rather trivial and dull and cricket in their home countries does not pull enough money to justify Stanford's purse. But Stanford has a right to give his money to whomever he sees fit and it should be taxed appropriately.

  • tempestteacup on September 19, 2008, 10:17 GMT

    I agree that the divisiveness of the Stanford games has been completely overplayed: there will always be disparities in the earnings of players in the same team. I don't even have a problem with the amount of money staked on the games - Allen Stanford has already stated his interest in 20/20 is based on business rather than personal enthusiasm, so we can assume he's 'done the maths' and reckons his investment realistically reflects the potential gains to be made.

    However (there was bound to be one, right?), the problem is one of context and identity. Basically, the English and WI boards have hired out their cricketers to a private individual for his own edification/pleasure/financial gain. Fair enough, but why should anyone but those participating be interested in the result? The fact that nobody knows what to call the sides reflects how gripless the contest is. Feathering one's nest with Texan dosh may be understandable, but it does not a compelling sporting event make.

  • Oliver Chettle on September 19, 2008, 10:09 GMT

    These matches are vulgar and divisive. There are several team sports in which twenty million dollars is chump change, but none of them put it in a glass box and play for it on a winner-takes-all basis. The analogy between these matches and two very rich men gambling for sums they can well afford is entirely spurious.

  • Swami on September 19, 2008, 7:43 GMT

    IPL was not a success because of huge sums of money, but it was success because of entertaining cricket. People didnt flock to stadiums day after day because they wanted to see players getting rich, but because they wanted to get entertained. So lets not confuse IPL and Stanford. Stanford is an exhibition match between England XI and Stanford XI ( which theoretically can include Sachin Tendulkar or whoever Stanford wishes to include to maximise television audience ). There is nothing at stake in that match except the players purses.

  • Roger@1stSlip on September 19, 2008, 7:10 GMT

    Mike/Steve/Ravi

    Cricket followers around the world will not be impressed by the ridiculous level of prize money for players for a one-off game.

    Cricket is not and should not be NFL or MLB. Didn't anyone tell Stanford that ?!?

    As you suggest, the real problem here is that the ECB got tempted to get involved with the likes Stanford in the first-place.

    I think it is reasonable to "dispute the abhorrent size of the prize " . If the ECB had done this it would have sent a constructive message of 'constraint' to Stanford who might then start to appreciate some of the long-standing virtues of cricket which set it apart from most other popular sports. It would also have sent a clear message to him that Cricket should not and will not be bought out at any price. Mike asked about what size such a prize should be. All I can say is that it should be alot lot less. Do you really want Americanism to get hold of cricket !?!..look what they've done to the world's financial system !!!

  • Marcus on September 20, 2008, 7:59 GMT

    Why is it that every time an English or Australian writer criticizes the Indian board, or even not criticize something involving England or Australia, they have to be racist? That strikes me as somewhat of a double-standard.

    I think the $1m purse is a bit too much, but I think that generally Stanford's been very good for West Indies cricket. Just look at what the WICB has planned for the money brought in by the T20 series- such as expanding the first-class season and re-establishing the A-team. If this is just a another part of Stanford's process, then I think we should all tolerate a little "vulgarity."

  • Gerard on September 20, 2008, 6:35 GMT

    Comparing the Stanford money to a captain's bonus is a ridiculous argument. Of course the English captain gets paid more than the rest of the team, and the players will have no problem with that.

    What they will have a problem with is teammates who participate in a tournament designed to undermine the game of cricket for ridiculous amounts of money (no, a million dollars is not 'a bit of extra cash', it's an amount that no player could possibly need).

    Any player who participates in this baseball competition should expect to lose the respect of their colleagues (and fans) if their commitment to the national team is ever less than total (eg Andrew Symonds).

  • Naresh on September 20, 2008, 3:14 GMT

    "the players who actually play will get a million bucks each and the four who sit in the dressing room will only get a quarter of a million"

    This seems to be the major difference between Stanford and the other situations you described. It narrows down the "each man for himself" thing to very real terms. And it will be divisive - lets see. It will be good for India to have a divided English team coming to play us - maybe they will even get sledged likewise - what was that about "divide and conquer"?

  • raj on September 20, 2008, 2:59 GMT

    Mike, I bet you dont have the courage to post my previous comment, in full. I have seen this time and again from your compatriots. I mean, do you guys even have a conscience and doesnt it ever prick you?

  • raj on September 20, 2008, 2:58 GMT

    oh! yeah, of course, it is not vulgar. England are involved. Only ICL, IPL etc can be vulgar - because they are run by natives, stupid. Right, Mr Holmans? Seriously, I wonder what Mr. Holsman would have said if this had been organised by the BCCI. Well, usuallyEnglish and Aussie commentators dont bother about being impartisan - and their groundrules are clear, if BCCI is involved, then it is their greed. If Eng and Aus are involved, they are saving the game. I guess Mike will follow that tradition. I bet Mike will berate the BCCI in a few months for some greedy venture in Toronto, whatever, even shamelessly forgetting that this article would still be visible to people and his partisan attitude would be clear to objective observers. In any case, there are very of them in Eng and Aus so his livelihood wouldnt be affected. So I guess they will continue to peddle such mindless one-eyed, biased-towards-Eng-and-Aus articles.

  • Ashok on September 19, 2008, 15:09 GMT

    Stanford's purse is not dictated by market forces. If so, the English or WI league would have done this themselves. The two teams are rather trivial and dull and cricket in their home countries does not pull enough money to justify Stanford's purse. But Stanford has a right to give his money to whomever he sees fit and it should be taxed appropriately.

  • tempestteacup on September 19, 2008, 10:17 GMT

    I agree that the divisiveness of the Stanford games has been completely overplayed: there will always be disparities in the earnings of players in the same team. I don't even have a problem with the amount of money staked on the games - Allen Stanford has already stated his interest in 20/20 is based on business rather than personal enthusiasm, so we can assume he's 'done the maths' and reckons his investment realistically reflects the potential gains to be made.

    However (there was bound to be one, right?), the problem is one of context and identity. Basically, the English and WI boards have hired out their cricketers to a private individual for his own edification/pleasure/financial gain. Fair enough, but why should anyone but those participating be interested in the result? The fact that nobody knows what to call the sides reflects how gripless the contest is. Feathering one's nest with Texan dosh may be understandable, but it does not a compelling sporting event make.

  • Oliver Chettle on September 19, 2008, 10:09 GMT

    These matches are vulgar and divisive. There are several team sports in which twenty million dollars is chump change, but none of them put it in a glass box and play for it on a winner-takes-all basis. The analogy between these matches and two very rich men gambling for sums they can well afford is entirely spurious.

  • Swami on September 19, 2008, 7:43 GMT

    IPL was not a success because of huge sums of money, but it was success because of entertaining cricket. People didnt flock to stadiums day after day because they wanted to see players getting rich, but because they wanted to get entertained. So lets not confuse IPL and Stanford. Stanford is an exhibition match between England XI and Stanford XI ( which theoretically can include Sachin Tendulkar or whoever Stanford wishes to include to maximise television audience ). There is nothing at stake in that match except the players purses.

  • Roger@1stSlip on September 19, 2008, 7:10 GMT

    Mike/Steve/Ravi

    Cricket followers around the world will not be impressed by the ridiculous level of prize money for players for a one-off game.

    Cricket is not and should not be NFL or MLB. Didn't anyone tell Stanford that ?!?

    As you suggest, the real problem here is that the ECB got tempted to get involved with the likes Stanford in the first-place.

    I think it is reasonable to "dispute the abhorrent size of the prize " . If the ECB had done this it would have sent a constructive message of 'constraint' to Stanford who might then start to appreciate some of the long-standing virtues of cricket which set it apart from most other popular sports. It would also have sent a clear message to him that Cricket should not and will not be bought out at any price. Mike asked about what size such a prize should be. All I can say is that it should be alot lot less. Do you really want Americanism to get hold of cricket !?!..look what they've done to the world's financial system !!!

  • Ravi Kumar Putcha on September 19, 2008, 3:37 GMT

    Considering the kind of money there is in sports like golf, tennis, Formula1 etc, and in Indian cricket, it would be wrong to criticize Stanford Cup (or whatever it is called) for the amount of money on offer.

    But I think Mike H misses the point when he defends the amount of money from charges of vulgarity.

    The more pertinent point, and which reeks of crassness and vulgarity, is the way in which the ECB rolled out the red carpet fo Stanford himself, converted the turf of Lord's which they seem to revere so much into a helipad, and topped it all off when they allowed themselves and some great cricketers - Botham, Sobers, Richards - to be photographed along side a "box" containing the millions on offer. Though, their conspicuous silence when Stanford made his distaste for Test cricket - which the ECB have declared undying love for - ranks a pretty close second. It is this unfettered display which seemed vulgar and crass, though the author makes no reference to it in his article.

  • Mike Holmans on September 18, 2008, 19:29 GMT

    Roger, steve - I too fail to understand why I should be more interested in a game because the winners will get a great deal richer than I am. I rather agree that $1m/man on one game is disproportionate - or at least it seems so today.

    But what level of prize money would you think was reasonable?

    As to the morality of it, Stanford's interest is in making the game a commercial success in the USA. A million bucks a man is something the US sports public, used to NFL and MLB players on multi-million dollar per year contracts, can understand is worthwhile, whereas the piffling sum you thought of in answer to my previous question won't seem worth getting out of bed for.

    You can sensibly ask whether the ECB should have got into bed with him at all, but quibbling over the size of the pot seems to me to be a side issue.

  • Roger@1stSlip on September 18, 2008, 12:56 GMT

    Interesting Mike. The disparity in different levels of pay in a dressing-room is not a problem. In most organizations the seniors earn more than the juniors etc. The idea of a monetary prize for a one-off game is also not a problem. As you said this type of incentive has been around since the 18th century etc. The problem with this one-off Stanford Game is not that there is a financial prize...it is the SIZE of the price. The ludicrous size of the prize and amount promised per player is absurdly excessive indulgent, wasteful and immoral. Didn't someone advise Stanford that it would be better for everyone in the cricket community if he offered a considerably MORE MODEST FINANCIAL PRIZE ? Such an enormous prize sends all the wrong messages to young people following the game etc. Morally, he would have been better advised spending all this money on eg helping promote grass-roots cricket in developing countries.

  • Lloyd on September 18, 2008, 12:41 GMT

    Great article. Good to see someone taking on the bastions of negativism. Let the cricketers earn money, like in any other field of endeavour. It's the same negativism that keeps cricket from being in the Olympics, all sorts of dire predictions of consequences. At Cricket2012Games.com we'd like to see cricket market itself, go global and being in the Olympics will do this.

  • Mollox on September 18, 2008, 12:07 GMT

    A very entertaining and thought provoking article. For so long everyone seemed to be complaining that there was not enough money in cricket, now someone ahs teh gumption and takes teh risk to inject millions and we are even taking the trouble to consider whether it is "vulgar" or "devisive". Get real!! What do we really want? There will always be differencesn what individuals on the same team get paid. It happens now, it's only the order of magnitude that varies.

  • steve on September 18, 2008, 9:29 GMT

    The whole concept is vulgar and tasteless but not because it may be divisive. The idea of a game being marketed on how much the players are getting paid is quite frankly grotesque!

    Are the organisers really expecting the fans to get excited because a bunch of sportsmen and fat cat administrators are getting even richer??

    Yes the IPL has been success because of the huge sums of money but at leasts it's tried to hype up the cricket as opposed to the players wages.

  • Dimuthu Ratnayake on September 18, 2008, 9:12 GMT

    i quite enjoyed this article. i wasn't sure how to treat the Stanford series (am still not convinced it shud b taken too seriously) if a lawyer can make a kajillion quid (i can make up numbers too!) by winning one major case (OJ simpson's perhaps?) or a pop start who can't sing does so in a "one nite only" concert, why can't an athlete do the same? Am sure ol' WG wouldv been licking his lips if he was playing these days! Nothing's changed, humans have always been vulgar and there will always be divisions within any group of people who are together only due to criteria set by others :)

  • Sathish on September 18, 2008, 2:48 GMT

    What are we talking about? The money any sportsman earns is decided by market forces... When Sachin was in his 20s, he didn't earn as much as, say, Kapil Dev. It is your performance, popularity and image decides your income. I see nothing wrong in it.

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  • Sathish on September 18, 2008, 2:48 GMT

    What are we talking about? The money any sportsman earns is decided by market forces... When Sachin was in his 20s, he didn't earn as much as, say, Kapil Dev. It is your performance, popularity and image decides your income. I see nothing wrong in it.

  • Dimuthu Ratnayake on September 18, 2008, 9:12 GMT

    i quite enjoyed this article. i wasn't sure how to treat the Stanford series (am still not convinced it shud b taken too seriously) if a lawyer can make a kajillion quid (i can make up numbers too!) by winning one major case (OJ simpson's perhaps?) or a pop start who can't sing does so in a "one nite only" concert, why can't an athlete do the same? Am sure ol' WG wouldv been licking his lips if he was playing these days! Nothing's changed, humans have always been vulgar and there will always be divisions within any group of people who are together only due to criteria set by others :)

  • steve on September 18, 2008, 9:29 GMT

    The whole concept is vulgar and tasteless but not because it may be divisive. The idea of a game being marketed on how much the players are getting paid is quite frankly grotesque!

    Are the organisers really expecting the fans to get excited because a bunch of sportsmen and fat cat administrators are getting even richer??

    Yes the IPL has been success because of the huge sums of money but at leasts it's tried to hype up the cricket as opposed to the players wages.

  • Mollox on September 18, 2008, 12:07 GMT

    A very entertaining and thought provoking article. For so long everyone seemed to be complaining that there was not enough money in cricket, now someone ahs teh gumption and takes teh risk to inject millions and we are even taking the trouble to consider whether it is "vulgar" or "devisive". Get real!! What do we really want? There will always be differencesn what individuals on the same team get paid. It happens now, it's only the order of magnitude that varies.

  • Lloyd on September 18, 2008, 12:41 GMT

    Great article. Good to see someone taking on the bastions of negativism. Let the cricketers earn money, like in any other field of endeavour. It's the same negativism that keeps cricket from being in the Olympics, all sorts of dire predictions of consequences. At Cricket2012Games.com we'd like to see cricket market itself, go global and being in the Olympics will do this.

  • Roger@1stSlip on September 18, 2008, 12:56 GMT

    Interesting Mike. The disparity in different levels of pay in a dressing-room is not a problem. In most organizations the seniors earn more than the juniors etc. The idea of a monetary prize for a one-off game is also not a problem. As you said this type of incentive has been around since the 18th century etc. The problem with this one-off Stanford Game is not that there is a financial prize...it is the SIZE of the price. The ludicrous size of the prize and amount promised per player is absurdly excessive indulgent, wasteful and immoral. Didn't someone advise Stanford that it would be better for everyone in the cricket community if he offered a considerably MORE MODEST FINANCIAL PRIZE ? Such an enormous prize sends all the wrong messages to young people following the game etc. Morally, he would have been better advised spending all this money on eg helping promote grass-roots cricket in developing countries.

  • Mike Holmans on September 18, 2008, 19:29 GMT

    Roger, steve - I too fail to understand why I should be more interested in a game because the winners will get a great deal richer than I am. I rather agree that $1m/man on one game is disproportionate - or at least it seems so today.

    But what level of prize money would you think was reasonable?

    As to the morality of it, Stanford's interest is in making the game a commercial success in the USA. A million bucks a man is something the US sports public, used to NFL and MLB players on multi-million dollar per year contracts, can understand is worthwhile, whereas the piffling sum you thought of in answer to my previous question won't seem worth getting out of bed for.

    You can sensibly ask whether the ECB should have got into bed with him at all, but quibbling over the size of the pot seems to me to be a side issue.

  • Ravi Kumar Putcha on September 19, 2008, 3:37 GMT

    Considering the kind of money there is in sports like golf, tennis, Formula1 etc, and in Indian cricket, it would be wrong to criticize Stanford Cup (or whatever it is called) for the amount of money on offer.

    But I think Mike H misses the point when he defends the amount of money from charges of vulgarity.

    The more pertinent point, and which reeks of crassness and vulgarity, is the way in which the ECB rolled out the red carpet fo Stanford himself, converted the turf of Lord's which they seem to revere so much into a helipad, and topped it all off when they allowed themselves and some great cricketers - Botham, Sobers, Richards - to be photographed along side a "box" containing the millions on offer. Though, their conspicuous silence when Stanford made his distaste for Test cricket - which the ECB have declared undying love for - ranks a pretty close second. It is this unfettered display which seemed vulgar and crass, though the author makes no reference to it in his article.

  • Roger@1stSlip on September 19, 2008, 7:10 GMT

    Mike/Steve/Ravi

    Cricket followers around the world will not be impressed by the ridiculous level of prize money for players for a one-off game.

    Cricket is not and should not be NFL or MLB. Didn't anyone tell Stanford that ?!?

    As you suggest, the real problem here is that the ECB got tempted to get involved with the likes Stanford in the first-place.

    I think it is reasonable to "dispute the abhorrent size of the prize " . If the ECB had done this it would have sent a constructive message of 'constraint' to Stanford who might then start to appreciate some of the long-standing virtues of cricket which set it apart from most other popular sports. It would also have sent a clear message to him that Cricket should not and will not be bought out at any price. Mike asked about what size such a prize should be. All I can say is that it should be alot lot less. Do you really want Americanism to get hold of cricket !?!..look what they've done to the world's financial system !!!

  • Swami on September 19, 2008, 7:43 GMT

    IPL was not a success because of huge sums of money, but it was success because of entertaining cricket. People didnt flock to stadiums day after day because they wanted to see players getting rich, but because they wanted to get entertained. So lets not confuse IPL and Stanford. Stanford is an exhibition match between England XI and Stanford XI ( which theoretically can include Sachin Tendulkar or whoever Stanford wishes to include to maximise television audience ). There is nothing at stake in that match except the players purses.