USA news December 4, 2012

Maxwell insists USA T20 on track

Neil Maxwell, the man behind next year's professional USA T20 competition, has told ESPNcricinfo that despite gathering disquiet he is confident the inaugural tournament will take place next July.

Maxwell, director of Cricket Holdings America LLC (CHA), a joint venture formed in 2010 between New Zealand Cricket and the USA Cricket Association for the development of cricket within the USA, said that talks were ongoing with cities about hosting franchises and investors wanting to buy into them.

"In a project this size there will always be delays," he said. "There are protocols which have to be overcome but we have now done this and are talking to interested parties."

Reports had been circulating that attempts to find franchisors had floundered because of the amounts being demanded - stories of $40 million price tags had been touted - but Maxwell said this was not the case. One meeting held in Chicago in early September failed to attract interest and one of those present said valuations were unrealistic, saying he "did not believe that the USA commercial cricket market justified anything near this figure".

"These are just bits of the story. It's a complex financial model but the sums are not anywhere near those being quoted. The initial investment is paid over ten years, and even then there are a range of grants to offset against this. The franchises are in perpetuity and after that investment there is just a small annual licencing fee."

He said that he hoped the process would be finished by February at which time players and boards would be approached. "But it's a massive project and the priority is for us to push out a good product."

Asked about comments from USACA president Gladstone Dainty that the bulk of the players would not be top international stars but would be from Associate and Affiliate countries, he said that while those players would certainly be a key part of squads, "the emphasis is still on top international cricketers".

Maxwell said the initial tournament would be a slightly scaled-down version involving six franchises - "which will give them a chance to bed in" - with others rolling out on the back of that in subsequent years into a more familiar league structure.

He also confirmed that in the first year it was likely that matches would have to be played on artificial pitches, adding that "five or six sites" were being looked at.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa