There are few institutions more ridiculous than the England and Wales Cricket Board. Think back to the glorious summer of 2005 when England and Australia contested the most thrilling Ashes series in living memory, against the backdrop of the London Tube bombings. England won that series 2-1, against a great Australia side, and for a time it seemed as if every second person you met was talking about the cricket. For once football, with all its rapacity, had been eclipsed.
The ECB’s response to the new-found popularity of cricket was to chase the money. Exclusive television rights to England games in England were sold to Sky, removing cricket from free-to-view terrestrial TV and excluding all those who could not afford to subscribe to a sports channel. It was a terrible mistake – and cricket has since begun to drift slowly towards the margins.
More recently, the ECB signed a deal with the American tycoon Allen Stanford to play a series of Twenty20 games in the Caribbean. There has rarely been a sporting spectacle more gaudy and unedifying than last November’s Stanford Challenge match, a $20m winner-takes-all thrash in Antigua. The spirit of English cricket died that night. Now, Stanford has been charged with an alleged $8bn fraud.
If he is found guilty, those at the ECB who struck a deal with him should resign. Most culpable is the board’s chairman, Giles Clarke. In fact, he should have gone already.