USACA might split with T20 investor, league in doubt
A proposed Twenty20 league in the USA, headed by the USA Cricket Association and New Zealand Cricket, may be on the verge of collapse after USACA president Gladstone Dainty allegedly informed stakeholders at the annual general meeting on December 15 in New York that the board's partnership with Rajiv Podar, the primary investor supplying funding to USACA through Cricket Holdings America LLC, might be coming to an end.
It is a scenario that is being denied by Podar.
"It is true we have been and we are still in active discussions with some investors," Podar wrote in an email to ESPNcricinfo.
"There have been some delays, mainly due to detailed planning and putting a proper structure and plan together. Given the magnitude of the project and our desire to have a world-class event, delays are normal. Frankly, I do not see how this is going to be a potential danger in ending the league. The company is being financed and progressing as planned."
When the CHA LLC agreement was signed in 2010, USACA was supposed to receive $2 million in annual payments from Podar in the form of advances drawn against future earnings from licensing fees secured by the proposed league. A further $3 million bonus payment was set to be disbursed to USACA from Podar by the end of 2011 in the form of share sales after securing another investor in the CHA LLC partnership to join Podar, Top Bloom, Neil Maxwell's Insite Organization, USACA and NZC.
Dainty admitted to ESPNcricinfo in November that USACA had actually been getting "about half" of the $2 million in annual payments from Podar that were originally agreed to as part of the CHA LLC deal.
According to sources, an additional investor was never secured and USACA never received the $3 million bonus despite two extensions granted to broker an agreement. The latest extension passed on December 15. Podar however was quick to dispel notions that the proposed league or his affiliation with CHA is in danger of coming to an end.
Dainty, who is also the chairman of the board of CHA in addition to being USACA president, is set to have a meeting in New York with Podar next month regarding the funding issues. If the sides part ways, it could mean that there will be no CHA T20 league unless a different investor is found to take Podar's place within the CHA structure to prevent it from collapsing.
It could also mean that USACA would have to repay Podar the millions of dollars he has already advanced them since 2010, which could pose problems for USACA since they do not have any significant revenue streams to facilitate repayment.
The money Podar extended to USACA was initially seen as a resource for funding USA development programmes. However, on-field endeavours took a back seat to legal battles in 2012 as USACA spent well into six figures this year on lawyer fees.
Consequently, USACA only organised one domestic tournament in 2012, a solitary 50-over match for the national championship on November 11 in Florida between a group of players handpicked by the USACA administration and designated as the Eastern and Western Conference. Despite multiple press releases promising to do so, USACA failed to organise a women's national tournament in 2012 and never put together a national junior tournament either despite receiving roughly $300,000 in funding from the ICC for the purpose of such development initiatives.
As of now, the CHA-organised USA Twenty20 league is scheduled to begin in June but signs that the league initiative was on shaky ground came to the surface earlier this month.
Dainty and Maxwell, the chief executive of CHA, gave conflicting accounts on the state of proposed league. Dainty told ESPNcricinfo that Associate-level players would be recruited to form the nucleus of the player talent pool while Maxwell stated in a separate interview that the league was still hoping to secure top-flight players from Full Member nations for a launch next summer with six teams playing on artificial pitches in New York.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Dainty is also at odds with Maxwell over the latter's plan to stage matches on artificial pitches, which is presently the only viable way to play matches in New York and other major metropolitan markets due to a lack of turf facilities.
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey