Coach Ann Browne-John remains optimistic December 29, 2004

West Indies' World Cup hopes hit by funding problems

The West Indies women's cricket team could be forced to withdraw from the World Cup if sponsorship is not secured soon. Funding problems continue to overshadow their preparations for the tournament, which will be held in South Africa in March 2005.

Only $23,000 of the $216,000 cost of participating has been raised so far, which barely covers the cost of one of the three planned training camps. Money still has to be raised for flights, accommodation, uniforms and cricket gear.

"I pray that something happens soon," the coach, Ann Browne-John, told Cricinfo. "Most of us are having sleepless nights because of it." The players themselves have been asked to concentrate on their training, but Browne-John concedes that "it is definitely starting to adversely affect them."

The first camp was held in October, under assurances from West Indies Cricket Board that they would fund one of the camps, which cost between $20,000 and $30,000. But, after the camp had taken place, the board then declared it would only commit $15,000. An unnamed corporation stepped in to make up the $8000 shortfall on this occasion, but so far no sponsorship has been secured for the other two camps, which are due to be held in January and February.

Other attempts to raise funds have proved unsuccessful. The Trinidad & Tobago government promised some funding, but would not reveal how much. Meanwhile, all of the region's sports ministers have been approached, but with no luck. Corporations throughout the region have either ignored requests for financial assistance or explained that their annual budgets have already been done.

The West Indies Women's Cricket Federation (WIWCF) has had two meetings with Dr Keith Mitchell, the prime minister of Grenada, who also heads up the Caricom Governments' Cricket Committee. But the cricket committee itself has not responded to the pleas for financial aid.

And now the WIWCF is fast running out of ideas. One option would be to ask individual countries to pay for their players, but a hopeful Browne-John says this would be a last resort, saying: "We are optimistic that a sponsor will still come forward."

Financial deadlines are looming - the airlines will soon ask for down-payments on flights - but Browne-John still holds out hope. "I am not thinking of the option of not raising the money," she said. "We have committed to going, and we just have to find the funds."