Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stanford prepares to break his silence

Sir Allen Stanford: ready to reveal his plans.

Sir Allen Stanford is expected to make an announcement about his future involvement in cricket later this week, as his home island of Antigua returns to the spotlight ahead of the second Test between England and West Indies.

The last time England were in Antigua was in November for the Stanford Super Series, a competition that ended, like last week's first Test in Jamaica, in humiliation. England were bowled out for 99 by the Stanford Superstars, en route to a ten-wicket defeat that meant they missed out on the US$20 million bounty that Stanford had put up for grabs in a winner-takes-all scenario.

Since then, Stanford's involvement with cricket has been under severe scrutiny. In December he closed his cricket office in Antigua and announced the dissolution of his 12-man board of "Stanford Legends", including greats of the game such as Sir Garry Sobers and Sir Vivian Richards, amid fears that he was about to pull the plug on his entire operation.

A subsequent press release reaffirmed Stanford's willingness to work with the ECB, with whom he had signed a five-year deal that included four further US$20 million matches, but left the future of his inter-island domestic tournament up in the air. That was largely as a consequence of the damaging row between the WICB and their principal sponsors, Digicel, which reached an uncomfortable resolution on the eve of the tournament in October, following a victory for Digicel at the High Court in London.

The concerns about Stanford's commitment to the region were intensified last month, when he announced 200 job losses in his Antigua-based Stanford Development Company, leaving the island's prime minister distinctly unimpressed. A spokesman for the company said they "had to reassess the market in Antigua especially in light of the global economic downturn".

Although the exact content of Stanford's announcement is not yet known, it is expected to incorporate both the domestic and 20/20 for 20 arms of his operation. According to the ECB, an announcement is "imminent", with the chairman, Giles Clarke, flying out to Antigua on Tuesday.