Ashes hero Flintoff set for bumper benefit

Published: Friday, January 20, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Andrew Flintoff is in line for the most lucrative benefit year ever enjoyed by an English cricketer, with one report suggesting the Ashes-winning all-rounder could earn as much as three million pounds when he cashes in on his fame with a series of global events.

During England's tour of India, which starts next month, a dinner will take place before the third Test in Mumbai and that will be followed by a golf day, featuring former England captains Ian Botham and David Gower, as well as a dinner in Delhi.

"We're taking Freddie global for his benefit," Flintoff's benefit chairman Paul Beck explained.

"Two dinners in India, one in Dubai, six in Australia during the (2006-07) Ashes," Beck also told Thursday's edition of the London-based Daily Telegraph.

The Telegraph also reported that Flintoff was in line to earn 3 million pounds from his benefit, surpassing the previous highest believed to be the 800,000 earned by Dermot Reeve, the former Warwickshire captain and England all-rounder.

Flintoff, 28, saw his benefit begin earlier this week with a dinner featuring former England striker Alan Shearer, and Stephen Harmison, the England fast bowler, at Newcastle United's St James' Park ground.

Benefits, which are tax free, are usually awarded to cricketers 10 years after they were 'capped' by their county, although Flintoff is receiving his just eight years after he was capped by Lancashire.

Originally, all that a county cricketer could expect from a benefit was nothing more than the gate money from one designated match.

But they have become increasingly extensive with committees arranging a series of celebrity-endorsed events, many taking place beyond traditional county boundaries, to maximise revenue although few have enjoyed the global dimension involved in Flintoff's benefit.

Nevertheless, the sums involved often pale in comparison to the average wages of an English Premiership footballer.

However, the system has been criticised on the grounds that players such as Flintoff, set for lucrative careers in any event, do better out of their benefit than the "deserving pro" for whom the system was first devised.

Flintoff is though set to donate some of his benefit money to charity, with 50,000 pounds already pledged to Leukaemia Research from one Lord's dinner.

But before all of that Flintoff, who has been showered with awards from inside and outside cricket since England's first Ashes win in 18 years, is due to receive Friday an honour he has insisted he will relish just as much: the freedom of Preston, his Lancashire hometown, in north-west England.

"That means I can drive a flock of sheep through the town centre, drink for free in no less than 64 pubs and get a lift home with the police when I become inebriated," said Flintoff, who became almost as famous for his alcohol-fuelled celebrations after the Ashes as he did for his on-field performances.

"What more could you want?"

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