Friday, September 12, 2008

Digicel proposes compromise to contract row

The row between the West Indies Cricket Board and its sponsors, Digicel, took another twist on Thursday with a proposal from the company to settle its dispute with the board.

In August, Digicel filed an injunction in the High Court in London seeking to have the WICB withdraw all approval for the Stanford Super Series which, it claimed, encroached its "exclusive sponsorship rights". The move came in the light of rumours that Stanford was close to signing Cable and Wireless (Digicel's competitor and a former sponsor of the West Indies team) as a sponsor for the series.

The court put the matter to arbitration, and the results of this are due in October. However, in a statement sent to Cricinfo, Digicel said it proposed a "compromise solution will involve the waiver of a considerable number of legal and commercial rights owned by Digicel by virtue of its sole and exclusive sponsorship agreement with the WICB".

The conditions of the offer are that the Stanford side in the 20/20 for 20 match against England on November 1 wear official West Indies kit with Digicel branding; that no telecommunications company be involved in the event; and that Digicel's costs be paid for by the board.

While this might appear one-sided, Digicel claims that in return it will be "foregoing a large number of valuable legal rights and entitlements including broadcast rights, exclusively branded pitch mats, sight screens, perimeter boards, promotional opportunities, advertising, content rights and various other avenues for commercial use that it currently owns by virtue of its sole and exclusive sponsorship agreement with the WICB".

The statement concludes: "Digicel would call upon both the WICB and Stanford to engage constructively on this matter and to put cricket in the West Indies first. Digicel's compromise solution is a very credible alternative and provides something for every party concerned."

Insiders believe that the WICB might have little option but to agree to the bulk of the demands, because without the board's backing, the series could be deemed unofficial which, given the precedent set with the ICL in India, would create numerous issues for the players involved.

As far as the ECB are concerned, however, the matches were approved by the ICC back in June, and so they have no doubts about their status. An ECB spokesman told Cricinfo that the other details were solely an issue for the WICB.