Wednesday, October 8, 2008

High Court ruling leaves world's richest match in doubt

Plans to stage the world's richest cricket match in Antigua next month were thrown into disarray on Tuesday when the West Indies Cricket Board lost a dispute with sponsors Digicel in London's High Court.

As a result of the defeat, the WICB was been told it will have to withdraw its sanction for the 20-million-dollar Twenty/20 match between the Stanford Superstars XI and England on November 1.

That could mean that either the match will have to be called off or that the Stanford Superstars side will be weakened by the withdrawal of most of the leading West Indian players.

The WICB had previously agreed to make all their players available to play for Texan billionaire Allen Stanford's select side.

But Digicel went to the High Court in a bid to establish that, as the contracted official sponsor of the WICB until 2012, it enjoyed commercial rights associated with a game that was, in effect, a West Indies XI v England.

The High Court upheld that argument and ruled that the Board would be in breach of its contract with Digicel if it sanctioned the match without granting commercial rights to its sponsor. The WICB was also ordered to pay costs.

WICB chief executive Dr Donald Peters confirmed the court defeat.

"We understand the arbitrator has ruled against the West Indies Cricket Board and at this point we are trying to evaluate what the terms of the ruling are before we make any statement,"
Peters told Britain's Press Association.

He added:
"As soon as my board has been informed there will be a statement."

The WICB and Digicel began arbitration proceedings under the auspices of the High Court last Friday but were unable to agree a negotiated resolution of the dispute.

In return for putting up the money for the match, Stanford 20/20 had wanted to find their own sponsors for the match, bypassing Digicel.

The fate of the match and several warm-up encounters involving Middlesex and Trinidad and Tobago, now depends on the outcome of negotiations between Digicel and Stanford over the next few days.

Sky Television, which is planning to broadcast the matches, said it was confident that a solution would be worked out to allow them to go ahead.

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