USA news December 19, 2010

USA and New Zealand sign deal to promote cricket

The USA Cricket Association (USACA) has announced an historic deal in partnership with New Zealand Cricket (NZC) that is designed to grow the game exponentially in one of the ICC's target markets. The partnership establishes a newly formed entity, Cricket Holdings America LLC, which will hold a majority of the commercial rights to cricket in the United States. This includes potentially valuable Twenty20 rights and the ability to stage a franchise-based Twenty20 league.

New Zealand will play an agreed number of matches in the United States as well as make its players available to participate in any future Twenty20 leagues, as part of the partnership. There is no word yet on when New Zealand will play its next series in the USA or who the opponent will be. NZC will also contribute management, development and coaching resources.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo in November, USACA treasurer John Thickett stated that the association was closing in on an eight-figure deal involving NZC and Saturday's announcement confirms that. "This is a historic day for the development of cricket in the USA," Thickett said. "This partnership has the potential to bring both funds and know-how to US cricket and provides a robust long term development plan for the world's second-most popular sport in a major market. I am absolutely thrilled at the opportunities it will provide USACA's stakeholders."

"This partnership will provide cricket in the US two very clear benefits," USACA President Gladstone Dainty said. "Importantly, it will provide a sustainable revenue stream for the development of the game and secondly, we shall be supported by the knowledge and expertise that comes from a Full Member country like New Zealand. These two compelling benefits will assist us to give cricket a strong foothold in the United States."

The other members of the partnership are Australian-based marketing company Insite, cornerstone investor Top Bloom and Podar Holding International, part of the Podar Enterprises group based in India, with has interests from mining and manufacturing to sports education, and operates the Cricket India Academy in Mumbai.

Neil Maxwell, the executive director of Insite, claimed that Cricket Holdings America should have a "capitalized value in the ballpark of between $80-100 million". Maxwell and his company were eager to get involved in the US market and he is being credited with brokering the deal. He was a visible presence at a USACA board meeting in Florida last March and also appeared at the Twenty20 series in May between New Zealand and Sri Lanka in Lauderhill.

"With a population of four million, New Zealand is a limited market place," NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan, said. "We have historically punched above our weight through leadership and innovation. Cricket Holdings America LLC is a significant step in diversifying our long-term revenue base and in the process, growing a new market."

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey

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