Sat, Jul 18, 2009 - Page 19 News List

US cricket wants to stage Twenty20 Premier League

AP , LONDON

The US wants to launch an elite Twenty20 cricket tournament inside two years along the lines of the lucrative Indian Premier League and featuring big-name players like England batsman Kevin Pietersen.

The USA Cricket Association hopes “top-class international cricket” will finally take root in the country by launching the first professional competition, the USA Premier League.

The first steps were taken on Thursday by inviting proposals from potential organizers, sponsors and broadcasters in a country where American football and baseball are the main sports.

The USACA wants to unlock the sport’s potential in a “massive market” and use the revenues from the new league to help spread cricket across the US and form a competitive international team.

“With the proliferation of Twenty20 cricket worldwide we feel an American audience is more adept at accepting that format rather than the longer more classical version of the game,” USACA executive secretary John Aaron said by telephone. “There is certainly a solid fan base there for those who want to see world-class cricket without leaving the US on expensive trips. We are trying to make the US a cricket destination for teams and players.”

Aaron said the league would start “no later than 2011.” Discussions have already begun with leading sports broadcaster ESPN, which has channels in the US and throughout the world.

It is owned by The Walt Disney Co and the USACA hopes Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, will help to attract cricket fans to the country’s only international standard ground, which is in the state.

“We want to make it a family thing,” Aaron said.

The IPL has taken cricket-mad India by storm and attracted top players from around the world, although this year’s competition was moved to South Africa because of security problems.

The IPL’s city franchises offer big paychecks to attract Indian and foreign stars, paying England duo Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff record salaries of US$1.55 million each at the last player auction. They are the same sort of players coveted by the USAPL.

“With the commercialization of the game there would be enough funds to attract some of the best players in the world,” Aaron said.

Rushmans, an international sports event management company based in England, has been appointed as commercial adviser.

“This process will enable us to consider all the proposals on the table and select the ideas and form the partnerships which are most beneficial to USACA, to the development of cricket in the USA and to the partners themselves,” commercial adviser Nigel Rushman said.

Organizers hope to build on the existing passion for cricket in expatriate communities from the Caribbean, the Asian subcontinent and other traditional cricket playing nations like England.

Rushman said the US is the world’s second biggest internet cricket market, with the 2007 World Cup attracting 1.15 billion hits, just behind India.

“With the right partners, the USA can host a world-class Premier League, which will fill grounds and attract massive television and online audiences,” Rushman said. “That is good news for the future of the sport in the USA and the growth of cricket worldwide.”

Potential partners, corporate sponsors, strategy experts, broadcasters and merchandise retailers must make formal proposals by Aug. 7.

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