Australia news June 4, 2013

CA offers marketing contracts to Ahmed, Sandhu

Cricket Australia is expected to pour more money into growing the game at grassroots level and appealing to a more diverse fan-base after receiving a massive financial boost thanks to the new A$590 million broadcasting rights deal. The organisation has been pushing for some time to increase its appeal to a wider multicultural demographic, which has continued with the offering of special marketing contracts to Fawad Ahmed and Gurinder Sandhu.

Ahmed, a refugee from Pakistan, could yet play in the Ashes if legislation before federal parliament is passed in time to allow his Australian passport to be fast-tracked, while Sandhu, whose parents are from India, was New South Wales' Player of the Year last summer.

CA hopes both men will take up the marketing contracts, a concept which was introduced as a result of the reduction in the number of central playing contracts recommended by the Argus report. Under an agreement with the Australian Cricketers' Association, players from outside the central contract list could be offered deals based on marketing appearances, and CA's chief executive James Sutherland said Ahmed was a good fit for such a contract.

"In terms of someone like Fawad, he's done very well in domestic cricket at the end of last season and he's got a different sort of background," Sutherland told ESPNcricinfo. "Part of our real focus at the moment is to grow and diversify our participation base. There are a number of players from different cultural backgrounds who are playing in domestic cricket and I guess there are opportunities to really highlight that and for them to be some sort of inspiration to others in our community to be part of the Australian cricket scene."

That broader aim of appealing across cultures will continue to be a major focus of CA over the next few years and it will have significantly increased funds with which to tackle the issue as a result of the broadcasting deal. The new five-year arrangement with Channel Nine and Channel Ten is worth 118% more than the previous deal and while some of that increase will be directed to the elite teams and players, grassroots cricket will also be a winner.

"How you spend your increases in revenue is just as important as the revenue itself," Sutherland said. "We have a very clear strategy and approach that says that at least 75% of our revenue will be spent of fans, Australian teams and participants, and that will be a very sharp focus for us over the next five years.

"Clubs are a really important part of the fabric of Australian cricket and whilst it's difficult to be absolutely specific, what we are very focused on is ensuring that cricket is a sport of choice for fans and participants. Growing our participation base, diversifying our participation base is really important.

"A fundamental within all of that for clubs is having good facilities and having the resources around them to attract people. It's competitive out there. There are lots of sports options. Kids today play four or five sports at the same time. We're really intent on making sure cricket is at the top of the list in summer time and part of that in our view will be looking for opportunities to improve facilities around clubs and communities to make sure that cricket is even more likely to be that sport of choice."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here