Disgrace that ECB are passing the bucks

  • @stephenbrenkley

Nobody resigns any more. Not if they can help it. We must become resigned to it. Only minutes after it was revealed that Sir Allen Stanford was being charged with fraud amounting to $8bn, Giles Clarke said he certainly would not be going anywhere.

He was not speaking for anybody else but the immediate impression was that all those associated with a deal that has besmirched English cricket would also be staying put. The chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board was plainly and unusually nervous last Tuesday afternoon as he tried to repel the loaded questions of a veritable horde of cricket writers who sniffed blood.

It is possible that the perspiration on his top lip was caused by the heat of the day in Antigua and a shabby, cramped room that had been requisitioned as a TV production office. But it is possible that it was not. As the days have passed since the astonishing accusations laid against Stanford and his financial organisation – the US Securities and Exchange Commission described it as “a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread throughout the world” – the heat has been reduced on the protagonists who engineered the deeply unhappy liaison with the England team.

Clarke, it is generally presumed, is not the resigning type. David Collier, the chief executive of the ECB, has been remarkably quiet, as if silence would make it disappear. Clarke is the frontman now. The likelihood seems increasingly to be that the game will seek quietly to forget that the Texan billionaire existed, or that they ever met him and that they can move on.

On Friday, the official announcement was made that the ECB were severing their ties with Stanford. There will be no more Twenty20 matches played for $20m and no quadrangular tournament in England this summer. Not that they were pre-judging the man whose money they had been so ready to take.

The statement was accompanied by the information that the ECB “had taken a prudent view to income from a number of sources – as a result, the termination of the Stanford agreements had no impact on the projected fee payments to counties”. So, that’s all right then. There were no apologies, no contrition, merely an eye on the balance sheet.

Sometimes they really don’t get it. That they formed an alliance with Stanford for the money was never in doubt but from day one it had the propriety of a liaison in a bordello. It was bad enough that the ECB, while banking the cash and organising meaningless games, sanctimoniously averred that it was for the good of West Indies cricket. But the nature of the transaction was always tawdry. The rendezvous at Lord’s when Stanford arrived and was treated as if disciples were meeting a messiah, when in reality it was like a hooker meeting a pimp, was staggering to behold.

When, the following night, the great Desmond Tutu delivered the Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture a few yards away from where Stanford had flashed $20m in cash in a suitcase, it was the embodiment of the dictum about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. Clarke and Collier were at both events: they cannot have missed the contradiction.

Around that time, Clarke said that he and Stanford had something in common. “Sir Allen is one of the world’s great entrepreneurs and I’m an entrepreneur and I admire that.” A clue to an integral part of Clarke’s character was dropped by James Caan, the entrepreneur (and now TV personality) in an interview the other day.

It turns out that Caan considers Clarke to be his mentor and here is why: “His most important lesson to me has been that it’s better to make the wrong decision and live with the consequences than to procrastinate.”

In Antigua last week, Clarke was at his best. Without that quality, it is probable that the Test match between West Indies and England would not have taken place after the farcical abandonment. Clarke was adamant it would and was rewarded by a great match.

During it the Stanford fiasco broke. There was a complete absence of humility then, the downside to the entrepreneurial spirit. Clarke bluffed it out. Captains and coaches, it occurred, have been sacked for much less.