The Stanford meltdown February 18, 2009

Cricket counts the cost of Stanford crisis

Cricinfo staff

Allegations of fraud against Allen Stanford have embarassed the WICB and the ECB © The Nation

The cricket world has begun to assess the impact on its finances and credibility of the fraud charges levelled against Allen Stanford. The ECB and West Indies Cricket Board, the two boards most closely associated with Stanford, have suspended negotiations with him and indicated that domestic and international tournaments sponsored by him are at risk.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint on Tuesday in a federal court in Dallas accusing Stanford, who heads the Stanford Financial Group, of fraud in the sale of around US$8 billion of high-yielding certificates of deposits held in his organisation's bank in Antigua.

The crisis will have an immediate impact on some of the future tournaments organized by both the affected boards. The Stanford 20/20 regional series in West Indies is now unlikely to be held. Asked whether the tournament would go ahead, the WICB president Julian Hunte said: "We anticipate that it will not continue (in the immediate future)."

He then sought to play down the impact on the WICB. "That is not a difficult matter for us to deal with. Either the WICB on its own or with the assistance of other entrepreneurs, will be able to get a tournament going in a way that will make it financially viable for us."

However, the cancellation of the tournament will deal a significant financial blow to the authorities involved in its organisation. Forbes Persaud, chief executive of the Trinidad and Tobago board, said the immediate financial loss as a result of the cancellation would amount to US$195,000: "Now that this has happened, it would mean that we cannot really look forward to that [money] coming to us again," Persaud told the Trinidad and Tobago Express. "I know our boys were eagerly looking forward to playing in the tournament and the fact that they have frozen all his assets, it would mean that that would be the end of the tournament."

One T&T player, Rayad Emrit, said the loss of the Stanford 20/20 will impact West Indies cricket on the whole. "If the WICB have a tournament like this, it is probably not going to be at the same magnitude like this one," Emrit told the paper. "But on a whole it is important to have a regional (Twenty20) tournament."

A four-team quadrangular tournament due to take place in England, with West Indies, Sri Lanka and New Zealand also expected to participate, is under threat. "We will clearly consider that situation but, as we have suspended all negotiations, there is a strong possibility that will now not take place," Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB, said.

Clarke is facing the brunt of the criticism of the ECB's proximity to Stanford, with calls for his resignation. Neil Davidson, the chairman of Leicestershire who strongly opposed Clarke during his re-election campaign, pinned the blame entirely on the ECB chairman. "We need to understand who knew what and who did what and that's an internal matter which we need to get to the bottom of," he told BBC Radio. "My understanding is that Giles was very much at the forefront of this deal." He added that Stanford's involvement with cricket rendered the sport "tacky" and felt the "wholesome image" of the England team was at stake in the wake of the crisis.

The WICB was more defensive in its reaction to the Stanford saga, refraining from "passing any judgement" and insisting that though this constituted a setback it did not threaten the existence or the functioning of the board. "I don't want to pass any judgement," Hunte told the Trinidad and Tobago Express. "I don't like to kick a man when he's down. What we know is that as we speak, his license has been suspended. To all intents and purposes, the West Indies Cricket Board is not dependent on Stanford for its financial viability."