US cricket set for infrastructure investment through landmark deal

USA Cricket has hailed what it claims is a “watershed moment” for the sport in the country by agreeing a partnership for the formation of a world-class professional Twenty20 league that will involve an investment of more than $1bn (£789.1m/€893.6m) into the development of the game domestically.

Following a Request for Proposals (RFP) that was initially launched in November, USA Cricket has selected American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) as its strategic partner.

ACE is backed by Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan, the founders of Willow TV, the largest cricket broadcaster in North America, and Satyan Gajwani and Vineet Jain, the principals of media conglomerate Times of India Group.

The launch of the new professional league is slated for 2021 and USA Cricket said ACE has commenced major infrastructure investment towards international grade cricket venues in several US metropolitan markets.

ACE is also working to develop additional turf cricket pitches and auxiliary facilities in more than a dozen locations. Based on a major/minor professional league model, the new facilities will seek to provide, for the first time ever in the US, the ability to stage and support major domestic and international cricket at all levels.

Paraag Marathe, USA Cricket chairman, said: “Vijay, Sameer, Satyan and Vineet provided a comprehensive vision for the growth of cricket in the US on all levels, and we’re confident they will create a world class T20 league here in America. This is a watershed moment for cricket in the United States and we look forward to a long-lasting, successful partnership.”

The US has long been seen as a significant untapped market for cricket, but in recent years the sport has been held back by governance issues in the country. In 2017, the United States’ previously recognised national federation was suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC), paving the way for the start of a recovery process which saw USA Cricket recognised as the ICC’s 105th member in January.

There have also been various cricket stadia projects taking shape in recent months, most noticeably in Allen, Texas. In March, the master developer behind a $500m cricket stadium complex (pictured) in Allen insisted that the project would go ahead despite one of the key companies involved in the plans dropping out.

Plans were first revealed in December to develop a 15,000-seat cricket stadium as part of a wider mixed-use development in the city. The plans were unveiled by Texas-based Thakkar Developers in collaboration with the CricRealty Company. CricRealty has exited the project, which is now solely in the hands of Thakkar.

USA Cricket said the new T20 league will feature top international players from the US and around the world, combined with a focus on pathways to develop a homegrown player pool for USA Cricket and the league.

A key highlight of ACE’s proposal is distribution, sponsorship and exposure for the professional league and for USA Cricket’s national teams via major TV and digital broadcast platforms, led by Willow TV. ACE’s proposal includes planning for media, marketing, reach and distribution across Times Group’s entire range of assets.

“Cricket has the second largest audience in the world, and yet has little presence in the largest professional sports market,” said Gajwani. “We want to develop a lasting institution that brings to the US the excitement and passion of cricket, enjoyed by billions of people globally. True grassroots development of any sport takes decades and we are excited and committed to play a role in developing world-class cricket in America.”

USA Cricket said further details regarding the new league will be revealed after the 2019 World Cup, which takes place in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14.