Lack of funds holding USA T20 launch back
USA Cricket Association president Gladstone Dainty has cited insufficient investment to cover initial operational costs and a lack of turf wicket venues in key markets for another delay to the proposed domestic Twenty20 league. ESPNcricinfo reported last week that Cricket Holdings America LLC, the partnership headed by USACA and New Zealand Cricket to stage a Twenty20 league in the USA, has pushed back the starting date for the league from 2013 to 2014.
According to Dainty, who is also the chairman of CHA LLC, the organisers did not want to rush the start of the league with partial funding. They hope for enough revenue to make up the balance so that incidences of players not getting paid in time - as in last summer's T20 All-Star exhibition match in Toronto and reportedly, in the Bangladesh Premier League last year - can be avoided.
"The bottom line is that we did not get all the money to have a quality league," Dainty told ESPNcricinfo. "We got enough money. We can go start a league but you've heard the stories. Players not getting paid, vendors not getting paid. In America, that could be trouble. We don't want to get involved because we're not a Full-Member country and we're really not trying for people to say, 'Well this is a Mickey Mouse league.'"
Besides operational costs, the other key issue revolves around the type of facilities available. While CHA LLC chief executive Neil Maxwell told ESPNcricinfo last year that the proposed league would be played on artificial pitches in order to take advantage of bigger metropolitan markets, Dainty has said that it would be harmful to the league's image if games were not played on turf.
"As long as the ICC says it's turf wickets, I'll vigorously defend that position," Dainty said. "If the ICC changes to artificial wickets, then I'll change but I don't think we should be going and starting a league with artificial wickets, at least not in America. I don't think that our cricketing pedigree is as such that we should be initiating those changes."
Currently the only ICC ODI approved turf wicket venue in the USA is in Florida. Dainty says that more funds should be raised for installing turf wickets in the New York metropolitan area, rather than use any artificial wicket venues that currently exist in the city, for the league to be successful and seize the sizable expatriate fan base there.
"You need these wickets to have a quality league. As far as I can see, most of the games are going to be played close to each other, maybe New York-New Jersey, New York- Washington D.C., depending on whether we can get wickets rather than spreading ourselves all over the country. I don't think we should compromise quality of play and turf wickets, I don't think you can have the best quality without turf wickets."
Even though the league is expected to be the key driver of revenue to USACA from licensing fees through the CHA LLC agreement, revenue can also be generated from staging other events. Dainty says he is confident there will be as many as three series arranged this year in the USA which may include Full Members or "international club teams", hinting that IPL franchises may be sought to tour in the same way that European soccer teams have often played exhibition fixtures around the USA outside of their own domestic seasons.
The concept of having IPL teams tour the USA was first broached in 2010 when former USACA chief executive Don Lockerbie met with former IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi. Although CHA continues to target New York as the base market, Las Vegas has been identified as an ideal destination to host a one-off series. A new cricket stadium would need to be constructed in Las Vegas if such a series were to take place.
"I feel confident that that's one of the places [Las Vegas] we're gonna have cricket this summer," Dainty said. "This summer we're hopeful to maybe have one or two events in Vegas. Vegas is hot in terms of putting a facility together. We have a couple of strong groups putting packages together to have cricket in Vegas, a couple of strong groups that the CHA LLC supports."
If any series are organised for this summer, they would be the first genuine CHA LLC revenue-generating events since the partnership was formed in December 2010. The pair of Twenty20s held in Florida last summer between the West Indies and New Zealand were organised by the West Indies Cricket Board after CHA LLC, which holds the rights to stage Full-Member matches in the USA, sold those rights for the series to the WICB for $1.
"It was more important to have the games and to make it work than to make money, so technically it's a loss but that's the way we had to do business. It's the game first and building the game. Everybody's treating this as maybe the next El Dorado. The streets are just paved with gold and once you find the city you're rich. Well, we're planning to build a city."
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey