The $20m bonanza - Emirates24|7

The $20m bonanza

Past players as well as representatives from the West Indies and England Cricket Boards with billionaire Alan Stanford, third from right. (GETTY IMAGES)

Billionaire businessman Allen Stanford said Twenty20 cricket could replace football as the world's leading team sport after announcing a series of $20 million (Dh73m) matches between England and his Caribbean Super Stars side.

"With the right financial support behind it, the right vision, it can be the dominant team sport in the world," said Stanford, speaking at Lord's cricket ground where the event was unveiled.

"I think Twenty20 combines almost all the elements of all sports: football, basketball, baseball, it even has track and field in it."

The first of five annual floodlit Twenty20 matches between Stanford's Super Stars and England will take place at his own ground in Antigua on November 1.

Players on the winning side will earn $1m each – a huge sum by cricket standards. However, members of the losing team will not get anything.

Of the remaining $9m being put up by Stanford, a million will be divided among the rest of the winning squad and a further million will go to the victorious coaching team.

The other seven million will be shared between the cash-strapped West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Over the course of five years, a player on the winning side in all the games could earn as much as $5m, while both boards are guaranteed a minimum of $17.5m each.

"The winner goes home happy, the loser goes home unhappy," said Stanford, who arrived at Lord's in his own private helicopter.
These matches are effectively exhibition games as England are not playing the West Indies although ECB Chief Executive Davi Collier said they were "unofficial but authorised" by the International Cricket Council.

Stanford, a Texan who became a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, has already invested heavily in a Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies, which now features his trademark all-black bats.

Meanwhile, ECB Chairman Giles Clarke denied his organisation's involvement was a way of placating England cricketers, who might otherwise earn big money in matches beyond the board's control. "We are not trying to appease them," he said.

"It gives them a chance to perform under pressure and to make money beyond the dreams of some of their predecessors," said Clarke as he addressed an audience including West Indies cricket greats Sir Garfield Sobers and and Curtly Ambrose.

England coach Peter Moores denied the money on offer would damage squad morale but admitted: "It will be a different set of pressures for all the players. It's ruthless, as it should be. If you perform, you earn money."

Stanford is also understood to have held talks with the ECB regarding the staging of an annual four-nation Twenty20 tournament at Lord's although, as yet, no details have been made public.