Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why all the fuss about Stanford 20 20 20?

SIR Allen Stanford moved with his small banking business to Antigua after it is alleged that he was asked to leave Montserrat some time back in 1990. Read more here. Between 1990 and today his business has had huge growth on Antigua and many say internationally. There are many both here in Antigua and abroad that have suggested that he and his business have operated in ways that have lifted eyebrows. Bloomberg news wrote a pretty hard article on him. Have a look here.
Nowhere has had more discussion about his business, political, ethical and environmental policies than here in Antigua. Half the people love him and half the people want him gone. There isn't a more visible "love - hate" relationship than you will find here with the people of Antigua and Allen Stanford. Well those last two statements are not totally correct actually because things have changed recently. They would have been prior to The Stanford 20 20. What the hell is the Stanford 2020? The best explanation is found on a website that was made for a small town in Colorado. Ft. Collins was where he made his game visible at every corner in an effort to teach some Americans about the second biggest sport on the planet. If you would like to learn about cricket and want to learn about the 2020 form of the sport go to this website, wait a minute, and then click on the "cricket 101" tab. The Stanford machine is a marketing powerhouse and they do an amazing job at whatever they do. Stanford 20 20 is a series of shortened cricket matches put on by Mr. Stanford here in Antigua where teams from across the Caribbean come to compete for huge sums of cash. It's a very fast paced game that fans can enjoy after work while spending very little money to enjoy the match within his Stanford Cricket Grounds.
As I said, Cricket is the second biggest sport on the planet and for some reason there has never been that much money in cricket with football, basketball, American football, baseball, automobile racing and others seeming to have more money in their professional leagues. Stanford and others have recently decided to change this.
Of course there are many reasons that Stanford has decided to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on cricket and I don't think anyone knows what the main one is. If I had to guess, it would be to make sure he is untouchable in the Caribbean. I know that sounds crazy but people all across the Caribbean love what he has done with Cricket and he has become very influential as a result throughout the region. Before 20 20 Allen Stanford could have been run off by a prime minister who felt slighted. I don't care who you are in Antigua now... there is no way you are going to move Stanford.
That being said, Mr. Stanford doesn’t always get a green light. The UPP and its leader Baldwin Spencer campaigned against Stanford and his plan to develop an environmentally delicate area off the North coast. They marched and picketed against it and even spoke about the particular area in their manifesto seen here... saying that they would make the area a park if they were voted into power. Check page 34 of their 2004 manifesto. Of course we know what happened when they did get into power. The words "green light" were actually used by the UPP to give Allen Stanford the permission to go ahead with his plans to develop an area they said they would set aside as park. I guess that's politics for you, but his influence is more powerful than any other person on the island. I wrote a little about Stanford's other off shore island development and warned about what could happen if he got his hands on Guiana Island on an old article here. This green light turned red last year after a political fopar by Stanford embarrassed the PM terribly. The PM and a few of the top brass then crucified Mr. Stanford in a very silly way thru the media and said that there was no way he'd get to do his multi billion dollar project in the North Sound. One of Mr. Stanford's employees told me that they would just have to wait until the next election and do it with the next party. Either way the cricket hysteria that the Stanford 20 20 has ignited will pave the way for what will be seen as an unshakeable power here in Antigua which will continue to spread it's tentacles across the Caribbean and internationally. There have been numerous articles about his spreading influence recently.
Although it sounds like I am being a bit rough on Mr. Stanford by airing all of this, I don't think that the motives for his huge investment in cricket whatever they may be outweigh the benefits for Cricket and our islands. The media coverage has been fantastic. Cricket is the only thing that seems to bind Caribbean nations, and since I was a little child its molecular bond throughout the region has weakened with basketball and other things taking away from the game. Stanford has energized old cricketing fanatics and has made fanatics out of kids and others who never knew anything about the sport. There is a unique brand of pride that a Stanford 2020 fan radiates that I can't describe, but know that it's pretty cool. It's given people something to get excited about. Up until now the games have been very affordable for Antiguan families with oftentimes no cover charge at all to get in. This Stanford 20 20 for $20 million seems to be catering to the English and the international cricketing community more than to the locals which is expected I guess, but I think some may feel a little left out. I am not sure about that though. Tickets didn't go on sale until the last minute and are way way way more expensive than people expected they would be. We will find out soon enough. To find out more about the Stanford Super Series which starts this weekend here in Antigua check the official website here. Whatever happens I am sure that the pride in West Indian cricket will return to the sport and when all is said and done... the sport will owe plenty to Mr. Stanford.