Fraud accusations levelled against cricket promoter Allen Stanford are a major embarrassment for the sport and raise serious questions about English cricket bosses' decision to go into business with him, newspapers said in London on Wednesday.
Mike Atherton in the Times said England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Giles Clarke and chief executive David Collier had got "exactly what they deserved" for signing up with Stanford without doing their homework.
US regulators accused Stanford on Tuesday of fraud in selling 9.2 billion dollars (7.3 billion euros or 6.5 billion pounds) in securities by promising "improbable and unsubstantiated" returns.
That prompted the ECB to suspend talks on any future sponsorship deal with the Texan.
Stanford was behind the Stanford Super Series Twenty20 competition, which culminated with his team of hand-picked Caribbean Superstars defeating England in a Twenty20 match which netted every player on the winning side a million dollars each.
"Their judgment must be questioned on a number of counts," former England captain Atherton wrote of Clarke and Collier, saying they failed to check out Stanford's business empire before signing a sponsorship deal with the Antigua-based businessman.
He added: "Because of the relationship with Stanford, English cricket turned down much more lucrative opportunities with India, South Africa and Australia... it is clear that the ECB backed the wrong horse."
Most embarrassingly for English officials, he said it was clear from early on that for Stanford, "cricket was being used as little more than a rich man's plaything" and the whole deal was "a tawdry exercise."
"Money often brings out the worst in people. It has certainly brought out the worst in English cricket and the men who run it. They have got exactly what they deserve," Atherton wrote.
The Daily Mail was similarly scathing, saying the ECB's deal with Stanford "has brought nothing but acute embarrassment to the domestic game."
It accused Clarke and Collier of being "interested only in whether he had the money, not where it came from," warning it had cost cricket dear.
The Guardian also questioned Clarke's future in particular, saying: "This always seemed a deal that was too good to be true.
"The ECB might have suspected as much and yet they carried on regardless."