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Colin Croft column

Colin Croft
By Colin Croft
Former West Indies fast bowler

While international money men and power brokers ponder the possible outcome of the Stanford indictment, the fall-out is already affecting people in Antigua & Barbuda and in the West Indies cricket community.

People queue outside the Bank of Antigua following owner Sir Allen Stanford being charged with fraud
People queue outside the Bank of Antigua following owner Sir Allen Stanford being charged with fraud

Just one day after the announcement that Sir Allen Stanford had been charged with an $8bn investment fraud, there was a very long line of worried-looking depositors outside of the Bank of Antigua, one of the Stanford financial conglomerate's holdings, presumably to either check that their deposits were still safe or perhaps to withdraw their funds altogether.

Meanwhile, at the Stanford International Bank near Coolidge, one of several Stanford-owned buildings close to the VC Bird airport and a bank which emphasises: "Hard work; clear vision; value for the client", investors have come from as far away as Argentina and Chile to check on their money.

In the twin island nation, where Sir Allen has lived for nearly 20 years, every one of the 75,000 inhabitants either works for some part of his business empire, or is related to or knows someone who does.

His interests spread from banking and investment to fitness and sports clubs, restaurants and more, and the Stanford group is the second biggest employer in the twin island nation, apart from the government.

In the world of cricket, Sir Allen has given his name to the regional Stanford 20/20 tournament, which has seen two competitions so far, and last year's Stanford 20/20 for $20m match that saw his own team of Superstars, a de-facto West Indies cricket team, play England amid intense local and media hubbub.

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Now, however, cricketers from Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, members of the teams which won the $1m prize in the two regional tournaments, and the members of the Stanford Superstars team, who won $1m each for beating England, are also worrying if their investments in the Stanford International Bank will be frozen - as suggested by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

While many would now query cricket's association with the Stanford organisation, when it comes to the running of major sporting events, it has been leaps and bounds ahead of anything that has previously been put on in the Caribbean.

Of course, many will say, they had unlimited funds in order to do so, and some suggest that up to $60m has been spent, but that does not tell the whole story.

Sir Allen Stanford
Stanford's funding has proved key in the Caribbean

Money has also been donated to countries around the region to help the ongoing development of the game and this has made Sir Allen something of a Caribbean icon and the loss of that money now could be dangerously detrimental to the immediate and future well-being of West Indies cricket.

Both the England and Wales Cricket Board and the West Indies Cricket Board say they have "stopped negotiations" with the Stanford organisation.

Despite that, the WICB insists it is in a healthy position financially, thanks to agreements and investments with sponsors and their associates, and that it has not received more than $1m per year from Stanford over the last two years.

That might be so, but the euphoria the Stanford tournaments brought to Caribbean cricket supporters has not been felt for many years, not since the heady days when the West Indies teams dominated the game in the 1970s and 80s.

Indeed, one of the stated aims of the Stanford project was "to bring West Indies cricket back to its rightful place at the top of the cricket world".

Whatever the WICB's position, the individual cricket boards around the region, who have each received an estimated $250,000 per year from Stanford, must be very concerned. They know that level of funding for grassroots development has been unknown in the past.

In Guyana, there is a saying: "You always hang your mouth where the soup is running." For many, following the Stanford indictment, the soup may run out.

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see also
Antigua bank hit by fraud charge
18 Feb 09 |  Americas
US tycoon charged over $8bn fraud
17 Feb 09 |  Americas
ECB suspends talks with Stanford
18 Feb 09 |  England
Stanford reviews series future
17 Dec 08 |  England


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