Fri, Jun 13, 2008 - Page 22 News List

Twenty20 can 'dominate' world sport, Stanford says

TEXAS HOLD ‘EM Allen Stanford arrived by helicopter at Lord’s on Wednesday with a box containing US$20 million in cash and plans to revolutionize the sport

AFP , LONDON

US billionaire Allen Stanford, third left, poses with West Indies cricketer Viv Richards, left, and cricket officials in front of the US$20 million he has put up for a series of Twenty20 clashes in the Caribbean.

PHOTO: AFP

Billionaire businessman Allen Stanford said Twenty20 cricket could replace soccer as the world's leading team sport after announcing a series of US$20 million matches between England and his Caribbean Super Stars side.

“With the right financial support behind it, the right vision, it can be the dominant team sport in the world,” Stanford told a news conference at Lord’s on Wednesday.

“I think Twenty20 combines almost all the elements of all sports: soccer, basketball, baseball, it even has track and field in it,” he said.

The first of five annual floodlit Twenty20 matches between Stanford’s Super Stars and England will take place at his own ground in Antigua on Nov. 1.

Players on the winning side will earn US1 million each — a huge sum by cricket standards. However, members of the losing team will not get anything.

Of the remaining US$9 million being put up by Stanford, US1 million will be divided among the rest of the winning squad and a further US$1 million will go to the victorious coaching team.

The other US$7 million will be shared between the cash-strapped West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Over the course of five years, a player on the winning side in all the games could earn US$5 million, while both boards are guaranteed a minimum of US$17.5 million each.

“The winner goes home happy, the loser goes home unhappy,” said Stanford, who arrived at Lord’s in his own private helicopter.

These matches are effectively exhibition games, as England are not playing the West Indies, although ECB chief executive Davi Collier said they were “unofficial but authorized” by the International Cricket Council.

Stanford, a Texan who became a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, has already invested heavily in a domestic Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies which now features his trademark all-black bats.

He denied he was simply giving money away. “I’m investing in cricket’s future in the West Indies. We’re in a bit of a trough and I want to do everything I can to bring it back up.”

Former West Indies captain Vivian Richards, one of Stanford’s advisers, added he was sure the matches would be competitive.

“We believe we have the product to do it justice. We wouldn’t like you guys to come to the Caribbean and take it [the money] back to England,” Richards said.

Twenty20 has grown rapidly in global popularity since being launched as a professional sport at county level in England six years ago and spawned its own world championship, won by India in South Africa last year.

In India, the first edition of a new, lucrative Twenty20 tournament was recently concluded, but Stanford said he believed English officials were best-placed to help him realize his Twenty20 vision.

“The ECB have the best organization and the best management to drive cricket into the 21st century,” he said.

Meanwhile ECB chairman Giles Clarke denied his organization’s involvement was a way of placating England cricketers, who might otherwise earn big money in matches beyond the board’s control.

“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,” Clarke told an audience that included West Indies cricket greats Everton Weekes, Garfield Sobers and Curtly Ambrose.

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