English cricket officials remained confident last night that their lucrative liaison with Sir Allen Stanford will continue. A report that the Texan billionaire was about to end his bizarre involvement with the sport was given no credence by the man himself and appeared at the least to be premature.
"We have heard nothing about Sir Allen withdrawing from cricket," said David Collier, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board. "We last saw him two weeks ago when he was in London and he gave no indication of that. Indeed, he has nothing but praise about the way England have conducted themselves in this."
Collier and the ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, were instrumental in setting up the Stanford deal. It is supposed to last five years and includes a $20m Twenty20 match in Antigua each autumn which forms part of the Stanford Super Series and an annual quadrangular tournament at Lord's in which two of the teams will be England and the Stanford Superstars. The ECB was also hoping that Stanford might back their much-vaunted new Twenty20 competition, the England Premier League, which is due to start in 2010.
"The quadrangular tournament in 2009 will definitely take place because that's linked with the recent Twenty20 for 20," said Collier. "We have heard nothing about after that. He had concerns about the behaviour of the West Indies board and the British press but that doesn't mean he will not be proceeding with the agreement."
The suggestion that Stanford, who has poured $100m (£65m) into cricket and seems to have a genuine affection for the short form of the game, was withdrawing his sponsorship stemmed from his decision to disband the legends' group of cricketers to whom he was paying around $10,000 a month each. They included Sir Viv Richards and Curtly Ambrose. Julie Hodge, Stanford's official spokesman, said: "No decision has been taken on the future of the Super Series. He is still evaluating his options and no decision has been made yet over whether to have a different format or continue as it is."
The deal with the ECB guarantees it $3.5m a year.