April 22, 2010

That's a scandal

As the taint of controversy and financial wrong-doing wafts around the IPL, we look at instances of monetary misbehaviour from the past

Cash. Sleaze. Fraud. The Stanford scandal had it all. Allen Stanford built his own stadium, funded his own Twenty20 tournament, and signed a deal with the ECB for England to play a tournament with a cash prize of US$20 million. It was the largest prize ever offered to a sports team for a single tournament. In 2008, the Stanford Superstars thrashed an England XI to win the inaugural tournament, during which Stanford was caught on camera getting rather close to some of the England players' partners. By early 2009, things went downhill for the billionaire. The US Securities and Exchange Commission charged him with fraud and multiple violations of American securities laws for alleged "massive ongoing fraud" involving $8 billion in certificates of deposits. By February the ECB pulled out of the deal with Stanford, and by June that year the FBI arrested him.

Accounting irregularities at Northants
In April 2004, Northamptonshire's honorary treasurer resigned, and a former member of staff was arrested and released on bail, after it was reported that a quarter of a million pounds had gone missing from the county's reserves. Audited accounts revealed £247,000 had been misplaced due to "accounting irregularities". The chairman, Simon Schanschieff, described the affair as disappointing, coming at a time when the county had "made progress turning around our trading performance".

The scam that caused a riot
India were playing West Indies in a Test at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta in 1966-67 when the stuff hit the fan. The trouble started when it became clear the local authorities had sold many more tickets than there were seats available. Angry ticket-holders, barred access, stormed the fences and started setting fire to stands and the pavilion roof. The mob burnt benches and gouged holes in the pitch with stumps. As innocent spectators sought refuge by moving to the outfield, they were subjected to beatings by the police, and were even tear-gassed. Conrad Hunte, the West Indies batsman, reportedly climbed the flagpole to save the West Indies flag from attack, and had to get away from the ground on foot. Local officials had to be smuggled out hidden on the floors of cars.

The cost overrun
Renovation work on the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in the last decade ran into trouble after it was discovered that the cost for the project, which had been budgeted originally at around US$1.8m, was finally expected to be about US$6m. To add insult to injury, the work was substandard. "The design is faulty - huge columns have been constructed which have blocked spectators' view. Hospitality boxes have been ill-conceived and huge dining room areas have been left at the back of the boxes, which have very little utility. The whole project is a monumental disaster, utter wastage of PCB funds, and is a tribute to the management ego and vision of grandeur," said a statement released in January 2009 by the PCB chief Ijaz Butt.

The board chief who hit back
Jagmohan Dalmiya, the former ICC and BCCI president, was arrested in March 2008 by the Mumbai police for alleged embezzlement of funds (about $650,000 approximately) from the 1996 World Cup jointly hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Dalmiya responded by counter accusing the Indian board, among them Niranjan Shah and Sharad Pawar, of misappropriating over $50 million in a television-rights deal.

Off the books
In 2009 an audit report of the Pakistan Cricket Board revealed massive financial irregularities in the affairs of the board, amounting to nearly $6 million over the period from 2003 to 2008, when Shaharyar Khan and Dr Nasim Ashraf had headed the PCB. The report calculated that nearly $2 million worth of expenditure had been incurred without documentation, employees were hired and contracts signed without following procedure - as in the case of the awarding of a five-year TV deal worth $42 million for which no bid documents were provided.

The travel cash that vanished
In December last year, Cricket Kenya's chief executive, Tom Tikolo, resigned following an inquiry into misappropriation of funds. Tikolo failed to account for $10,000 that had been paid to him by the organisers of an Under-15 cricket tournament in the West Indies in April 2008. The hosts had offered the sum as a grant towards the team's travel, but when asked how he wished the money to be disbursed, Tikolo asked that it be paid over to him personally in cash. He went on to claim the money was stolen from him, but eventually agreed to pay it back to the board.

The tournament that wasn't
In 1994, a company called Cricket Legends, fronted by former Middlesex and England batsman Roland Butcher, announced that it would be staging an international sixes tournament at The Oval. Several big names - Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Clive Rice, Gordon Greenidge and Allan Lamb among them - were to play in the two-day floodlit tournament, which was to be televised throughout Asia. When only about 1000 paying spectators turned up on day one it caused some of the tournament's backers to withdraw, which resulted in cash-flow issues for the organisers. The players, who had been promised up to £10,000 each, were left feeling cheated as they received only half the promised money. On the second day the players hung around while the organisers were nowhere to be seen, and there was no play. The total loss to Cricket Legends was estimated at about £330,000.

Trouble in Canada
The Maple Leaf Cricket Club in King City in Canada filed a complaint earlier this year claiming the funds worth more than $100,000 were mysteriously absent from the balance sheet, along with about 150 cheque stubs. Pandit Maharaj, current president of the Maple Leaf club, filed the case, while Ranjit Saini, who was president of the club between 2007 and early 2009, alleged that the allegations were an attempt to discredit his campaign to become president of the national board.

More tickets than seats
Another ticket scam. For the Pakistan-England ODI in Rawalpindi in 2000, more tickets were sold than the ground had capacity to hold. Chaos duly ensued as the incident blew up into a full-scale mob assault on the nearby army compound. England's openers, Marcus Trescothick and Alec Stewart, and the Pakistan fielders were forced to shield their eyes as teargas wafted across the field of play when riot police tried to control the crowd.

Zimbabwe crisis
An independent forensic audit in 2008 carried out by KPMG exposed misuse of funds by Zimbabwe board officials, and found "serious financial irregularities" but the ICC decided not to take any major action and cleared Zimbabwe Cricket of financial wrongdoing; Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, who opposed the inaction, was sent on gardening leave. Later Tatenda Taibu, the former Zimbabwe captain, too accused the board of financial mismanagement and a Harare court ordered Zimbabwe Cricket to submit documents concerning its payroll, sponsorship deals and ICC grants.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo