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Stanford's commitment in limbo

American billionaire Allen Stanford is considering the future of his Twenty20 Super Series cricket competition after losing $US40 million in sponsorship deals from October's event.

Reacting to a newspaper report that Stanford may scrap the event and pull his sponsorship out of cricket, a spokeswoman said he was "reviewing all of his options" and considering how to change the competition.

The Texan funded a winner-take-all US$20 million Twenty20 match between England and a West Indies all-star team in Antigua in October, the first of five annual games worth a total US$100 million. The all-stars won.

Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reported today that Stanford told his staff in Antigua that he has dismantled his "Board of Legends" - which included West Indies cricket greats Viv Richards, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose - and ended his involvement in the game.

"He has disbanded the legends group, but at this stage no decision has been taken on the future of the Super Series," said Stanford 20/20 spokeswoman Julie 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."

Hodge said Stanford was disheartened by the negative publicity of the Super Series and would take into consideration the poor financial return for his investment.

"Of course he will factor in the 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 US$100 million into cricket.

"I don't think he was insulted. But it is disheartening, especially when you are putting so much money into the sport. He is reviewing all of his options."

The England and Wales Cricket Board, whose officials are in Mohali for the test series against India, had no immediate confirmation.

"We're unaware of the alleged developments," the ECB said. "One of the problems we have is that we are 5 hours ahead of London, who in turn are five hours ahead of America, so we are going to have to juggle time zones."

If Stanford does pull out, it is almost certain to have a big impact on cricket in the Caribbean and England.

He was planning to provide financial backing to more Twenty20 competitions, including an annual tournament at Lord's starting in 2010 and the English Premier League starting the same year.

Stanford's Super Series competition in October also attracted headlines for the wrong reasons.

England's players complained about the stadium lighting, the slow playing surface and even the behaviour of Stanford. During a game, he was caught on camera socialising with some of the players' wives and girlfriends, including one who was sitting on his lap. He later apologised.

source - nzherald.co.nz
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