USA Cricket hit by lawsuit over T20 league bidding process

The American Cricket Premier League (ACPL) has filed a lawsuit against USA Cricket and the International Cricket Council (ICC) over the bidding process used to select a commercial partner for the formation of a recently-announced professional Twenty20 league in the country.

Last month, USA Cricket hailed a “watershed moment” for the sport in the country as it selected American Cricket Enterprises as its strategic partner for the formation of the league. It was claimed that the partnership will see more than $1bn (£789m/€890m) invested into the development of the game domestically.

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

It is hoped that the new league will launch in 2021, with USA Cricket stating last month that ACE has commenced major infrastructure investment towards international-grade cricket venues in several US metropolitan markets.

The ACPL’s lawsuit could prove to be an obstacle for USA Cricket’s ambitious plans. The lawsuit of ACPL, a client of law firm Alston & Bird, has cited “numerous acts of corruption in violation of federal and state antitrust law – including conspiracy, financial conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and undisclosed transactions” in the bidding process to select ACE as its partner to develop the league.

ACPL chief executive Steven Maksin said: “The entire bidding process from start to finish has been one big sham. It’s completely at odds with a fair, unbiased selection that cricket fans, players, and supporters deserve and can be proud of and will lead to a less robust league and a worse game-day product while giving cricket a huge black eye just as it seeks to establish itself in the US.”

The complaint claims that the ACPL’s proposal offered USA Cricket $8m a year over the first two years of their partnership, compared to $2m from ACE.

The ACPL bid also proposed the acquisition and building of new facilities, including a venue already in development in Dallas and one in Atlanta that is soon to be announced. Alston & Bird said that ACE’s proposal lacked such provisions.

A statement released by Alston & Bird added: “In charging USA Cricket with conspiring with the International Cricket Council to exclude ACPL from consideration despite its more favourable bid, the lawsuit states that Willow TV, whose founder is the CEO of winning bidder ACE, provided free advertising during its cricket broadcasts for the election campaigns of four of USA Cricket’s seven board members.”

In recent months, various cricket stadia projects have taken shape in the US, 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.