CRICKET: STANFORD SERIES She plopped in my lap, it was totally innocent and I apologised... I meant no disrespect
SIR Allen Stanford, the American at the centre of England’s Antigua embarrassment, last night promised no more flirting with the ladies or wandering into dressing rooms.
In his first interview of a week strewn with crass moments and poor cricket, Stanford gave his version of the ‘WAGs Incident’ and insisted people were misjudging him.
He is putting up $20million tomorrow night for the winners of the Twenty20 match between England and his Superstars team and says he should be judged after that.
“The week has gone the way we thought it would,” he said. “David Collier [ECB chief executive] had dinner on my boat last night and we were discussing the future and we are on track to where we want to be. After Saturday people will have a different opinion of what we are trying to achieve here.”
England’s players have complained to the ECB that the Stanford Series has been more like a “garden party” solely for Stanford’s benefit and are demanding changes before they return next year – although there is no question of them refusing to come.
Former England cricket chief Lord MacLaurin has branded the series a “pantomime” and hopes the national team will not participate again.
Lord MacLaurin, who stepped down as ECB chairman in 2002, told Radio Five Live: “I think the pantomime season has come early and I don’t think there is much interest in it.
“To have those huge rewards for just one match is, in my mind, just stupid. My view as a traditionalist is that Twenty20 has a place but I don’t think this sort of pantomime cricket has a place at all. I think the rewards for a one-match bash are just obscene, and I suppose even more obscene now due to the financial state the country is in. My view, having watched it all transpire, is this will be the last one.”
The week started with upset as Stanford was shown on TV flirting with players’ partners as Emily Prior, wife of wicketkeeper Matt, sat on his lap.
Stanford said: “I didn’t know about the word WAGs but I saw the young ladies there and the cameraman said it would be a great shot to be in the middle of them shouting ‘Go England go’.
“I had no idea they were connected with the English team. If I had known, I would have just said ‘good evening’ to them and walked away. One stood up and offered her seat and when I sat down she plopped in my lap.
“It was all totally innocent and I have apologised to Kevin Pietersen. I meant no disrespect to the ladies or the team.” As for walking into the dressing rooms, Stanford said he had done that since he launched his tournament on his own ground here two years ago.
“I have always walked into locker rooms to see both teams after games but I will not be going into their dressing room if it is just a place for players. I will carry on doing what I do. I’m not changing who I am.”
England players have told representative Sean Morris, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, they want to come back for more matches that are worth £600,000 a man if they win but only on their terms.
They expect the arrangements to be as formal as they are for a full international.
Morris said: “This has all felt like a show revolving around Stanford. Maybe we were all a little naive in thinking it would be like a normal tour with normal cricket but with the chance of winning a million bucks each.
“No one is going to turn that down but cosmetic issues off the field are devaluing Team England, and that makes them feel uncomfortable. I don’t see why we can’t iron out a few off-the-field issues.
“The size of the carrot is such that any professional cricketer is going to say he would like to take the chance of earning a million dollars. As long as that’s still there I think players will continue to commit to it. It is the ECB’s job to make sure the players are not exposed to these embarrassing moments.”
Morris said the players’ great worry is the public’s reaction back home if they do cash in: “You accept there are strings attached with a million dollars but their biggest worry is how to deal with it if they win,” he said. “They are very sensitive they will be perceived like the footballer alienated from fans, but you have a family to look after and you make a commercial decision.
“It has been a bit like a garden party but they are prepared to get through it, win the money and get out of here.”
CANDID: Sir Allen admits mistakes have been made but says they’ve been misconstrued