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ECB was given Stanford warning

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Mihir Bose | 09:55 UK time, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

I have learnt that three weeks ago the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was warned that there was trouble brewing with Sir Allen Stanford. The ECB's response was to ask its auditors, Deloitte, to do further due diligence.

The ECB has so far refused to comment on the extra diligence that was performed, but its decision to suspend relations with Stanford as soon as US authorities announced they were investigating the Texan businessman for fraud suggests it knew something.

The warning could not have come at a more delicate moment. The ECB was discussing a new deal with Stanford, who wanted to ditch the million-dollar-a-man match in Antigua, the first of which was played last November. He was still prepared to back an annual quadrangular tournament at Lord's in the summer, but the deal he proposed was for three years, not five years. Also, he wanted to reduce the pot on offer to the winners from $5m to $1.5m.

Interestingly, negotiations about the new Stanford deal that were taking place between the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) and the ECB have now led to a row. One possible reason for that row is that the ECB upset the players by trying to force them to agree to the new deal in the middle of the current Test series against West Indies. The counter suggestion is that the PCA upset the ECB by insisting that the original five-year deal, including the Antigua match, should remain in place, even sending an e-mail to the ECB to that effect just days before Stanford was charged.

Sean Morris, the chief executive of the PCA, has admitted that the organisation's lawyers did send an e-mail to the ECB on 6 February. But he insists this was just to seek clarification about the status of the Antigua matches. He argues clarification was necessary so the players could understand why they had to sign a new deal.

According to Morris, it was the ECB which was under time pressure to conclude the revised Stanford deal. He told me that pressure was coming from Stanford and also because the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was due to mail its members with details on the quadrangular matches at Lord's. As it happens, the MCC ended up sending out its publicity mail before the deal could be concluded.

That is all now history, of course. The ECB must now look to the future and find a way of making up for the loss of Stanford and his money. It has already told the counties that they will not lose out financially. But in order to ensure that they don't, the ECB will have to dip into its £4m contingency fund.

The bigger question is how the ECB can get a share of the money the Indians are generating from their lucrative Champions League. As I revealed in November, when I concluded that Stanford was a bad deal for English cricket, the ECB spurned India's offer to join their tournament. Instead, it tried to establish its own competition, which would be backed, it said, by Abu Dhabi money.

England would have earned nearly 17% of the total pot had they joined the Champions League, the same percentage that Australia and South Africa were promised. The Indians would keep 50%, arguing they deserved the bigger share because the bulk of the money was coming from their own television markets.

The ECB said its deal was better as it would give everyone an equal share of 25%. Yet despite this assertion, Australia and South Africa went with the Indians. The ECB's Abu Dhabi backers then promptly vanished when they discovered the Indians would be playing in their own tournament rather than the ECB's.

The ECB has to find a way of winning back the Indians, who now have a 10-year deal worth nearly $1bn. That will take some doing, particularly given how weak the ECB's bargaining position is in the wake of the Stanford affair.

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