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11 December 2023

Fighting from the boardroom

ECB chairman Giles Clarke gets a further two years to make amends for poor Stanford decision. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Ahmad Lala

Giles Clarke was re-elected unopposed as chairman of the England and Wales Board (ECB) this week amid massive uproar due to his part in the Stanford Twenty20 for 20 deal.

The British media have had no sympathy for the man who signed a deal last year for England to participate in five $20m winner-takes-all Twenty20 games since it emerged the ECB had barely researched the financial situation of partner Sir Allen Stanford.

Clarke now has two years to wipe away the egg stains from his face after having to cancel all ties with the Texan billionaire, charged last week with an $8bn (Dh29.44bn) investment fraud in the US.

"Any sporting body, which re-elects Giles Clarke unopposed as its chairman must have more screws loose than a DIY flat-pack," wrote one scribe in The Mirror.

However, surely that's a bit harsh? The ECB is, after all, not the FBI. If it took America's top security institution until last week to discover the alleged fraud, you can't blame Clarke for not figuring it out.

It was an opportunity to generate $100m for English cricket and the 55-year-old, together with chief executive David Collier, jumped at it.

And, it was not as if they were jumping at a inconceivable dream either. Stanford landed his private helicopter inside the Lord's Cricket Stadium bearing $20m in a glass box. Although it has now emerged the helicopter was rented and the money was probably closer to $100,000. Still the ECB couldn't have known that at the time.

"We entered into the Stanford transaction in good faith," said Clarke, earlier this week. "Like many sporting bodies we carried out our side of the contract and he carried out his and we were paid. We then passed those funds on to the benefit of the game."

Together with Stanford, the ECB took the game into American households that would never have been interested before.

Each time the story is aired in the next few months, cricket will be mentioned alongside the disgraced Texan – ultimately achieving Sir Allen's goal of growing the sport in the States.

Although, both could not have imagined it would be done in this fashion.

There is good news for the UAE, though, as the chairman also revealed this week he had received "more lucrative" offers from the Middle East. With the Dubai Sports City Cricket Stadium expected to open in the coming months, enthusiasts here can be confident efforts and discussions are ongoing to attract the top teams.

The ECB and Clarke are not the only ones to have got links with Stanford – Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh both do too.

The World No1 – who has Stanford's company as one of the Tiger Woods Foundation's main sponsors – returned to the field of play on Wednesday at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championships after eight months out injured. His website continues to promote Stanford's company name.

Singh, a former world No1 himself, joined Woods in Arizona and continues to play in his Stanford-sponsored gear.

Giles Clarke may have been shown up by Stanford, but you don't hear cries for Woods or Singh to retire.