Digicel Slams Players, WIPA
Thu, Feb 17, '05
West Indies cricketers have been accused of having more women’s phone numbers than runs during the recent VB triangular series in Australia, while the players’ association has been described as a terrorist group.
The accusations are contained in a report which Digicel’s representative Richard Nowell has submitted to his company, after accompanying the team as group sponsorship manager during its ill-fated six-match tour.
The home team won the series which also involved Pakistan, while the West Indies was only able to win one of its six matches.
In the February 12 memo to Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien, Nowell said had certain members of the West Indies cricket team scored as many runs as they had women’s phone numbers during the tour, the West Indies would have won the series comfortably.
Nowell said in spite of the fact that he was representing a company that had injected some US$20 million into West Indies cricket, he felt alienated and was treated with hostility by certain members of the team, including captain Brian Lara.
Describing the players as lacking sponsor/media savvy, Nowell, said the players were motivated purely by money.
“They are poor ambassadors from any representative team I have come across in my six years, working in seven different sports,” he said.
“As sponsorship manager, I am deeply concerned as to the length of the road Digicel needs to travel to begin to gain benefit from their US$20 million investment.”
Nowell said on the eve of the match against Australia in Brisbane, he heard numerous doors banging and female voices along the players’ hotel corridor well after 1 am.
“Perhaps more astounding, was following the team’s defeat against Pakistan, the player rooming next to me had company 20 minutes after returning from a crushing defeat.
“As a former professional cricketer and having toured with England on three occasions, I know men need to have fun while on tour.
“However, not at the expense of their performance. Even in Perth, the most crucial time of the tour, one player had flown in a girl from Adelaide.”
Describing his report as a frank assessment of the tour, Nowell said the occasion presented the first opportunity for Digicel to exploit their rights as West Indies sponsors.
He said he targeted three areas:
Maximisation of press conferences.
Sponsored players’ columns within the press.
He said he recruited a TV crew to feed news to the Caribbean and a sum of US$30,000 was offered to be shared among the squad in return for their imput.
“On hearing this Lara said to me: ‘Don’t point those cameras at me. I will wear your shirt on the pitch but I am Cable and Wireless, you hear?’” Nowell said.
He said the other C&W players then followed suit. “The crew was treated with hostility, principally by the C&W contracted players,” Nowell said.
He said the columns were blocked by the West Indies Players’ Association, even though a number of players were not in agreement.
Nowell said that hostility was not only extended to his TV crew. “Sadly, in Brisbane, (Ricardo) Powell and (Xavier) Marshall agreed to be interviewed,” he said.
“They were then ostracised by the team at a visit to the Australian zoo.”
Nowell said Digicel employed the photographic agency Getty Images to do a shoot at a pre-match press conference.
“The players refused to do this. The photographer, a longstanding sports photographer, commented that he had never encountered such a reluctance to work on behalf of a sponsor,” he said.
Nowell said watching the teams prepare for the series, there was lethargy among the West Indies players. “Bennett King (coach) has a huge culture change to effect,” he said. “We swapped frank conversations and he is aware of the scale of his challenge.”
Nowell also slammed the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). “They must also address the nuts and bolts of the sponsorship contract,” he said.
Nowell said there was no doubt that the personal Cable and Wireless contracts were the centre of the problem.
“With no relationship, access or support from the captain, Brian Lara, (Chris) Gayle and (Ramnaresh) Sarwan, the highest-profiled players who should be at the forefront of the sponsorship, combined with a terrorist players’ association, our current rights have negligible value, if any,” he said.
* This article appears by special arrangement with the Trinidad Guardian.