Allen Stanford documentary is gripping but ECB had sold its soul long before grisly $20m match

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Another of the contributors to the Sky doc, Stuart Broad, was at the crease in Sydney for the denouement on Sunday, still looking only slightly less boyish than in his Draco Malfoy-in-sportswear early 20s when he was among the England players competing for Stanford’s 20 million bucks in 2008. Broad says: “Stanford knew that he had brought the England cricket team; it was pretty heartbreaking really. It was just about money. You don’t play for England for the money. Well, we did, didn’t we?”

Reminding this viewer of Gary Neville’s fire-and-brimstone, Ian Paisley-ish denunciations of football’s European Super League – sermons delivered from the Reverend Neville’s Super Sunday and Monday Night Football pulpits – you have to look at any documentary on Sky about the corrupting, bastardising, competition-killing effect of money on sport and say: I can only admire your balls. Watching England turn up in Australia for the Ashes injured, undercooked and evidently, in some cases, mentally and emotionally drained, one does not need to look too hard for those who are calling the tune.

They are, of course, the broadcasters. 

Partly why the ECB was so pathetically, easily seduced by Stanford was because it had bungled the T20 format that England had invented, could clearly see the IPL stealing a march, and had begun its slide to irrelevance by going behind Sky’s paywall. 

It could have been a Texan with a Ponzi scheme, it could have been a petrodollar dictatorship that kills dissidents, but the chancers who run sports like football and cricket in England appear to remain so very easily had by rich people, never minded to ask too many questions about where the money comes from as long as they can have some. 

Stanford lives on, because that episode established of England cricket that, as the hoary old joke has it, “we know what you are; now we are just haggling over the price”. And if you doubt it, just look at the TV schedules and fixture lists. All filler, no killer, but they have to keep feeding the beast.

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