Antigua-based billionaire Allen Stanford has confirmed that he will be investing US$100 million in a series of Twenty20 matches over the next five years which will make England and West Indies players among the highest paid in the game.
The deal, announced at a slick media conference at Lord's, will centre on five US$20 million games between England and a Stanford All-Stars XI, drawn from the Caribbean, at his purpose-built ground in Antigua. The first of these will be held on November 1, Antigua Independence Day, before England head to India.
"I see the Stanford 20/20 as a fantastic opportunity for current players in the Stanford 20/20 tournament to take a giant leap into the spotlight and gain exposure to top class opposition," Stanford said. "The Stanford 20/20 for 20 [million dollars] will be a highly anticipated event, not just because of the prize money, but because of the traditional friendly rivalry that exists between England and the West Indies."
"The winner goes home happy, the loser goes home unhappy. We had to create something that had never been done before and take cricket to the previous level in the Caribbean, we've not been running our sport at a professional level."
There were concerns with the winner-takes-all format proposed by Stanford but those seem to have been resolved. A deal will mean that if England win, each of the XI will receive US$1 million, the rest of the squad share US$1 million, and the management team splits another US$1 million. The remaining US$7 million will be shared between the ECB and the West Indies Cricket Board, regardless of the outcome of the match itself.
The sums exceed those available for all but the top-paid players in the IPL, and, for the England cricketers, will also come on top of their existing ECB central contracts.
Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB, brushed aside suggestions the deal was pandering to the players in light of the distractions offered by the IPL. "I'm not seeing a great deal of worry in the dressing room about finances and we are not trying to appease them," he said. "It gives them a chance to perform under pressure and to make money beyond the dreams of some of their predecessors."
Stanford initially offered South Africa a winner-takes-all match in 2006 but their board declined. A similar offer to India, with a bigger pot, was also dismissed.
Aside from the five matches, it is reported that Stanford will put up US$9.5 million a year for five annual quadrangular events to be held in England from next year. England and West Indies will always be involved in these.