Stanford weighs up Super Series options

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The Independent Online

Sir Allen Stanford has yet to make a decision on the future of his Super Series cricket event, according to a spokesperson for the tournament.

Stanford is "evaluating all of his options" after the inaugural series earlier this year and is also considering possible new competition formats, Stanford 20/20 spokesperson Julie Hodge told PA Sport.

Reports emerged earlier today suggesting Stanford is ready to end his five-year deal with English cricket after the American disbanded the legends employed to promote the event.

"He has disbanded the legends group, but at this stage no decision has been taken on the future of the Super Series," said Hodge.

"He is still evaluating his options and no decision has been made yet over whether to possibly have a different format or continue as is.

"As far as I'm aware there isn't a definite timeline, but he could possibly come to a decision within January."

Stanford announced in June that he would financially back five annual Twenty20 games between a West Indies Superstars XI team and England, with the winners of each match pocketing 20 million US dollars.

However, the first such match in October, which the Superstars won by 10 wickets, attracted widespread criticism.

Stanford's behaviour in Antigua upset some of the England players, particularly when he frequently entered their dressing room.

He was also pictured with several of the players' wives, including Matt Prior's pregnant wife Emily, sitting on his knee, causing him to telephone captain Kevin Pietersen to apologise.

Organisational issues and playing conditions at the event were also questioned, and according to reports Stanford lost 40 million US dollars on the inaugural venture.

However, spokesperson Hodge added that the return on investment would be just one part of Stanford's overall review of the event.

"Of course he will factor in the (financial) return, but there was a lot of negativity surrounding the event," she said.

"He is very passionate about the sport, and he has put more than 100 million dollars into cricket.

"I don't think he was insulted (by the negativity), but it is disheartening, especially when you are putting so much money into the sport.

"He is reviewing all of his options."

The Texan billionaire has contributed millions of dollars to the West Indies Cricket Board in an attempt to boost their flagging fortunes, bankrolling their domestic Twenty20 competition and the multi-million five-year agreement with the England and Wales Cricket Board for the annual Super Series.

The eight legends, who included Sir Viv Richards, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, have departed.

And the ECB, whose leading officials are with the England team preparing for the second Test against India, were left to seek clarification about their relationship with Stanford while battling with a 10-hour time difference between America and Mohali.

ECB chiefs were believed to be shocked by news of a possible end to the arrangement this morning, particularly as Stanford had been positive about their future relationship during their last meeting in London several weeks ago.

He was expected to fund an annual four-team Twenty20 tournament at Lord's, which was due to begin next summer, while he was also being lined up to bankroll the England Premier League Twenty20 event starting in 2009, which was due to include his Superstars side as one of two overseas teams.

While the loss of his investment would not be a major financial blow to the ECB, it would still hit their budget plans in the current financial crisis.

Team sponsors Vodafone have already announced they will end their £4million backing in January 2010.

Should Stanford cease to be involved in cricket, it would bring a controversial and short-lived partnership with the ECB to an unexpected finale.

If Stanford is to end the partnership - both parties are understood to have inserted get-out clauses - it would also deprive England's players of a major opportunity to win one million dollars each.

"It's a huge opportunity and to play in one of those Stanford games is fantastic," admitted Sussex wicketkeeper Prior.

"It's a potentially life-changing opportunity, but what will be, will be. We're not in control of what happens and what goes on.

"If it carries on then fantastic, but if not there'll be other things. There's a huge amount of money going into cricket at the moment, but maybe because I've been out of it and come back you realise it's not just the cash, it's the huge amount of pride you get from playing for your country.

"It's a huge moment any time you play for England. Whether it's a Stanford game, Test match or one-day international, ultimately the pride of playing for your country for me is the thing that eclipses all other things."

Prior admitted the media scrutiny during the 10-day trip was a cause for concern among the players.

"A lot of stuff is blown hugely out of proportion but that's international sport these days," he said.

"Everyone is keeping an eye on every movement, everything you do, everything your wife does, it's crazy.

"That's sport and you just get on with it, you take it with a pinch of salt and ultimately you try to play cricket and try to perform. That's what it's all about really."

Today's news also caught out the West Indies Cricket Board, who are based in Antigua, where Stanford developed his ground.

A WICB spokesman said the organisation had no comment to make, as the region's cricket authorities await notification from Stanford's people.