Cricket has seen several cases of corruption. Over 20 cricketers have been banned due to corrupt practices within the sport. But once, the sport itself was duped by an American financier Allen Stanford, who sponsored professional sports and had also set his eyes on cricket.
In 2008, the England and Wales Cricket Board had signed a five-year deal with him for a series of matches between England and an all-star West Indies team. On June 11 that year, Stanford landed at the Lord’s, in a helicopter, to officially declare the tournament.
Brian Radford, in his book ‘Caught Out – Shocking Revelations of Corruption in International Cricket’ says, “It was around two o’clock on 11 June 2008 that Sir Allen Stanford landed like some mid-summer Santa Claus in a black helicopter on the lush, manicured outfield at the Lord’s cricket ground in north London with a proverbial sack bulging with $147.5 million to give away for the good of the game.”
Selling England By The Pound … Allen Stanford poses in a dugout at Lord’s after his controversial deal with the ECB in 2008. It was 13 years ago today that he flew into Lord’s in a helicopter as the hierarchy of English and West Indies cricket fawned … pic.twitter.com/AthZY5kQ3v
— Historic Cricket Pictures (@PictureSporting) June 11, 2021
The ECB’s then CE David Collier and chairman Giles Clarke welcomed him. Stanford was being hailed as cricket’s new saviour. But imagine, a businessman, yielding so much money to hold matches through five long years. He will promote a yearly T20 series of games between England and the Stanford Superstars and the winner will take $20 million, it was decided.
The interest for this tournament had come from the Stanford T20 tournament that he had created and obviously, financed in the West Indies in 2006. He had told journalists, “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. The Stanford 20/20 for 20 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.”
During the first match, he went around with the wives and girlfriends of the English cricketers but that didn’t sit well with the players. Stanford later said, “I had no idea those were the English players’ wives and that created quite a bit of an uproar. But I apologised for it. I went over to the English locker room and I apologised to the guys.”
Critics, though, called the deal between the boards and Stanford not in good taste and thought if the money that was being distributed was actually his.
Within a year, he had been charged with fraud. The Stanford Development Group owned a luxury home by then, with 14 rooms covering 7,000 square feet, surrounded by palm trees and a garden in Houston a mile away from the group’s headquarters, a huge three-storey building.
He had vanished following the US authorities’ accusation that he had put together a huge ongoing fraud. Stanford fled off to Antigua where he was hailed as the most powerful businessman and also owned his own cricket ground. He was arrested later.
During the trial, US diplomats warned government officials not to be seen or pictured with Stanford two years before he landed at Lord’s.
The ECB and West Indies cricket board cut off all relations with the millionaire-turned-prisoner, and what had looked as another cash-rich side of cricket besides IPL that started the same year, Stanford’s brainchild died an untimely death, even after such a glamourous birth.