Stanford 20/20 for 20 October 2, 2008

Court to rule if Stanford game can proceed

Martin Williamson previews the hearing in London which will decide whether then Stanford 20/20 for 20 will go ahead

Brand wars rumble on in the Caribbean © Digicel
The future of the Stanford 20/20 for 20 could be decided in the next few days at the High Court in London. Should arbitration, which starts on Friday (October 3) fail, a ruling will be made in an increasingly acrimonious dispute between Digicel, the telecommunications giant who are the long-term sponsors of West Indies cricket, and the Stanford organisers.

Sitting in the middle, with little to say and plenty to lose, is the West Indies Cricket Board. At the heart of the matter is its recognition of the Stanford 20/20 for 20 which, Digicel argues, makes it an official tournament. Although the team that takes the field against England on November 1 will be known as the Stanford Superstars, Digicel argues that it is a sanctioned national side in all but name. It adds that the WICB also cleared the decks to allow all players to be available for the Stanford training camps ahead of the event, underlining its legitimacy.

The WICB, through the Stanford organisers, counters that it is no more than a private venture taking place with the board's blessing and, as such, Stanford are free to seek their own sponsors and brand the event in any way they like.

Digicel, who have sunk tens of millions into Caribbean cricket only to find themselves embroiled in a series of contractual rows, maintains that as an official event it has rights to shirt branding and other commercial spin-offs. What really appears to have rankled the company are rumours that Stanford was lining up Cable & Wireless, Digicel's arch rivals and predecessors, as the Superstars' sponsors.

In August, Digicel, stalled by the WICB and rebuffed by Stanford, filed an injunction in London (anachronistically, the highest court in Antigua) and after more terse press releases from both camps, the warring factions are due to meet in arbitration.

Last weekend, Digicel sidestepped Stanford when it refused to allow them a seat at the arbitration process, insisting the dispute was between itself and the WICB. Given the consistently hapless way the board has handled its relationship with its sponsor in the last few years - insiders insist that the WICB was warned on several occasions before it struck the deal with Stanford that doing so would put it on a collision course with Digicel - a dynamic and robust defence from it is not predicted.

Given the sums at play, and the loss of face for Allen Stanford if the event is shelved, the likely outcome remains a compromise. The tournament will probably go ahead and Digicel will accept a degree of branding, while allowing Stanford some freedom to run the commercial element of its own event.

The losers, for the umpteenth time, will be West Indies cricket and the already shredded credibility of a board which appears to do little of note other than stumble from one crisis to another, and almost all of them of its own making. And of the three parties, it is the one that needs to hang on to every cent is has.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Donald on October 7, 2008, 15:39 GMT

    Come on people, Can't we just get along? Why do we blame the Sponsor for this? If you paid for a Private Jet and someone came to the caretaker and said that they want to use the plane to go somewhere without your permission , how would you react? We need to stop letting our emotions run things! We need to mature with the rest of the Sporting world and start to do things the correct way, not the way that looks correct. We know who is to be blamed, the law has spoken clearly. Let common sense prevail on this matter.

  • nikolai on October 3, 2008, 11:19 GMT

    Regardless of Digicel's rights and who is at fault my perception as a devoted cricket fan paying casual attention to all this nonsense is that Digicel is certainly not acting as a sponsor with West Indies cricket at heart.

    To me Digicel has only reflected a negative feeling ever since they got involved with WI cricket. The only power I have to express my dissatisfaction is to boycott their services and products.

  • meg on October 3, 2008, 5:17 GMT

    Inexperience has been the WCBC's greatest downfall. The decision to change sponsors from C&W to digicel was not made with the foresight that was needed. Digicel, has shown the difference between an entity that was using sports to increase branding as against one that was already a household name. C&W was willing to support WI cricket despite many corporate blunders even encroaching on sponsorship commitments. However, Digicel has shown no inclination to step back and they have stuck to the letter of their contract with WCBC. Digicel was not wrong to do so. However, most if not all the issues regarding pay, strikes etc has been based around the terms of this contract. I am sure that digicel would have done their homework before they agreed to work with the WICBC, but they knew that they were going to use the courts to gain their foothold. C&W a longtime sponsor of caribbean cricket should never have been judged using the same barometer. Now we reap the benefits of chasing money.

  • David on October 2, 2008, 19:34 GMT

    Digicel's contract is up in a few years time and hopefully the west indies cricket board will take all of the problems they have had over the last few years (lara and several others being banned, battles over sponsorship and this current matter) into consideration before rushing into a new deal with digicel.

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