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Page last updated at 20:10 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 21:10 UK

Twenty20 'to conquer world sport'


The ECB should seize this opportunity - Stanford

Billionaire Sir Allen Stanford believes Twenty20 cricket can replace football as the biggest game in world sport.

The Texan told BBC Sport he was ready to invest in an English version of the Indian Premier League and predicted it could be worth as much as 500m.

"Twenty20 has the potential to be the most popular team sport in the whole world in maybe less than 10 years.

"But it's going to take a highly organised, highly efficient management team to run this show," he said.


Stanford, who runs his own Twenty20 tournament in the Caribbean and last year announced plans to invest almost 50m in West Indies cricket, is in London this week for talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board.

He has proposed a 10m winner-takes-all series between an England side and his own West Indies All-Stars XI, which would involve:

• An annual game to be played at the Stanford cricket ground in Antigua over the next five years, starting in November.

• Prize money of 10m, with every player from the winning team netting at least 500,000 each with the winning cricket board receiving 2.5m. The losing team would get nothing.

• The competition would be financed by Stanford, who would pay for the kit and travelling expenses.

Stanford said he would also commit 50m over five years for a Twenty20 competition at Lord's.

He proposes:

• A round-robin competition between England, a West Indies Stanford XI and two Test-playing nations chosen by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

• Three matches with a winner-takes-all 5m prize fund, financed by Stanford.

• Matches to be played annually every September.

He said he was ready to help the ECB further by investing in an English version of the IPL, which is currently taking place in India, but wants it up and running by 2010 at the latest.

"I look at a lot of businesses to invest in, not just cricket, and I'm hugely impressed by their [ECB] organisational capacity.

In-depth interview: Sir Allen Stanford

"No disrespect to the Indians or the IPL, [but] they did this too fast, too quick. The ECB has taken a more logical approach, has a better structure, and if they get it, and drive and lead it, I think it can take the whole world.

"If they don't, it'll be successful, but not go to that other plateau," said Stanford.

English cricket pioneered the shortest form of the game by introducing the Twenty20 Cup competition in 2003.

It quickly caught on in other parts of the cricketing world and led to the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 tournament in South Africa last year, which was won by India.

The announcement of an unsanctioned Indian Cricket league (ICL) prompted the Board of Control for Cricket in India to set up its own tournament, the IPL, which features franchise teams headed by top players from all over the world on highly lucrative contracts.

To me it's boring, but the Test game will always be here

Sir Allen Stanford

And the attendance of Bollywood stars and involvement of American cheerleaders has added showbiz razzmatazz to the mix.

Stanford said around 250m would make Twenty20 the most "dominant team sport in the world".

He added: "I wouldn't even talk about going forward with this unless we had a billion dollars, (500m), in cash reserves to make this thing work.

"I think with that you've got the financial legs to stand on, the ability to set up something that would have the success you guys want 10 years down the road.

"The English clearly have to make a decision to take control and run with this....and I'm happy to be a supporter because I think the ECB is the right vehicle to be driving this."

The American said Twenty20 would not threaten Test cricket, saying: "To me it's boring, but the Test game will always be here.

"It is important it stays not just for the purist but it is the foundation, it is the old school colonial thing of years gone by.

"It has a real purpose but I think of the 50-over game, its shelf-life may have come.

"I think seven or eight hours is still too long a day. I think Twenty20 will take the place of the 50-over game."

see also
English game may follow IPL lead
23 Apr 08 |  England
Sidebottom backs big-money game
22 Apr 08 |  England
But is it really cricket?
22 Apr 08 |  South Asia
England bosses soften IPL stance
16 Apr 08 |  Cricket
England duo handed Wisden award
09 Apr 08 |  Cricket
England IPL ban 'will not work'
09 Apr 08 |  England
ECB chief rejects Pietersen plea
07 Apr 08 |  England

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