The USA Cricket Association has announced a one-year agreement with Smart Choice Auto Group to sponsor the men's national team. It's the first sponsorship deal secured by USACA chief executive Darren Beazley less than four months into the job, something that previous figureheads at the USACA failed to do. Beazley also announced former Australia Test player Colin Miller as a USACA ambassador.
"This is the first sponsorship. I'm hopeful there's going to be more," Beazley told ESPNcricinfo. "As more revenue comes in, we can start to extend our program. But I think this is a good step in the right direction."
The Texas-based auto dealership serves the Houston, Texas metropolitan area, but SCAG's owners also stated in a USACA press release that they have business interests in Dubai. USA is due to participate in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE in November and the opportunity to have increased local exposure during the tournament appealed to the company.
"As our company grows, we are looking for marketing vehicles that will promote a positive community message and allow us to interact with our clients in the USA and in the UAE," Sakhi Muhammad, president and chief executive of SCAG stated in a media release. "With that objective in mind, a sponsorship partnership with the US national men's team made a lot of sense."
Beazley said the funding from the sponsorship would help USACA in the organisation's goal to become more professional and less dependent solely on ICC funding.
"When we go to a tournament, we get a certain amount of funding from the ICC but there are costs that USACA has to bear that are above and beyond that. So this allows us to recoup some of that cost," Beazley said. "There are issues that we deal with that other teams don't necessarily deal with. We pay the players stipends that a lot of countries don't. We take more staff. The allowance from the ICC is for two staff. We primarily take four. It's all that sort of stuff. It's helping us meet those costs to try and make sure that our program is professional."
Beazley also announced the appointment of Miller as a USACA ambassador, the first person to be part of a new initiative spearheaded by Beazley in an attempt to raise awareness of the sport in the USA.
"At this stage my plan would be in the next 12 months to probably have four ambassadors across the country," he said. "They might come from sport like Funky [Miller] does or they might come from another sport or they might be completely outside and just be a high profile person."
Miller, 49, played 18 Tests for Australia from 1998 to 2001. In 2004, he was one of several former international cricketers to sign up and play in Pro Cricket, a Twenty20 domestic professional league in the USA that folded after one season. He currently resides in Las Vegas and Beazley said he hopes it will be possible for the USACA to arrange for Miller's involvement in some of the organisation's regional development plans on the west coast.
"With Funky, we want to try to get him involved in some of our coaching programs," Beazley said. "My intention is to try and develop this high performance program where we have stuff happening in the regions. If we could get Funky to go and work with some of the guys on the west coast from time to time, we just think that's going to add a bit of value too."
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey