Stanford talks on brink of resolution

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The Independent Online

A deal could be done at some stage today to end the sponsorship row which had threatened to force the abandonment of the lucrative match between the Stanford Super Stars XI and England next month.

Arbitration talks continued yesterday between Stanford 20/20, who are organising the event, and the West Indies Cricket Board and their major sponsor Digicel.

The two sides have been holding discussions since last Friday as they seek to put an end to a dispute that has been raging for the past few months.

Because of the high sums of money and television exposure at stake, an agreement to ensure the game will go ahead has always been the most likely outcome, and it now appears a breakthrough could be reached today.

Such a scenario would avoid the dispute going before the High Court in London, where Digicel lodged their case in August after being overlooked as sponsors for the match to take place at the Stanford Cricket Ground in Antigua on 1 November.

The root of the dispute is Digicel's claim they have branding rights for the game under the terms of their sponsorship contract with the WICB, which they extended until 2012 in July.

Digicel's stance has angered the match organisers, Stanford 20/20, who would rather find their own sponsors for the match.

Stanford 20/20, who are not a part of the arbitration process, claim that because the match is not an official West Indies fixture then Digicel's deal with the WICB does not apply, freeing them up to find their own sponsors.

Despite that, last month both parties attempted to find a resolution, without success, forcing the current arbitration to take place.

Relations between Digicel and the Stanford 20/20 organisers soured to such an extent last month there were very real fears the match would have to be abandoned.

Both parties aired their grievances with each other in a volley of press statements to the media after weeks of talks reached a stalemate.

After Digicel rejected a compromise plan put forward by Stanford 20/20 they claimed the organisers had refused to enter into further negotiations.

"Digicel, having had its own three-point compromise solution flatly rejected by Stanford, sought (together with the WICB) to meet with Stanford representatives to further advance discussions in the matter notwithstanding Stanford's firm rejection of Digicel's compromise proposal," their statement read.

"Regrettably, Stanford flatly refused to meet with all parties and stated categorically that it refused to engage in any negotiation process involving the WICB. Digicel has urged Stanford to reconsider its position in this regard."

Stanford responded to that release with a pointed statement of their own outlining their belief the dispute was an "unwanted distraction" and the game would go ahead.

"Stanford 20/20 is disappointed, though not surprised by Digicel's latest press release of September 21st 2008 relating to its dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) arising from the Stanford Super Series," the statement read.

"Whilst Stanford 20/20 is frustrated by Digicel's behaviour, it is nothing more than an unwelcome distraction and Stanford 20/20 will not be derailed from moving ahead with preparations for a successful Stanford Super Series."