USA Cricket Association wants to Stage Twenty20 Premier League

The governing body of cricket in the United States is planning to launch a Twenty20 Premier League similar to the IPL in India. The USA Cricket Association's chief executive, Don Lockerbie, was at Lord's watching an Ashes Test. The USA Cricket Association (USACA) 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.

"I'd like to see a successful, world-class, best-players-in-the-game tournament, an invitational franchise league or something like that, in the near future," Lockerbie said. "That would be the dream. It's too early to say what kind of format that would be, but we're putting out a tender for proposal."

On whether the US version will be on lines of the IPL he said, "Of course, you want to look at it as a model to emulate, or as a model to partner with, or at least to come up with something that has its own fresh appeal.

"The USA is a country that wants to see the superstars, and that's what we have to focus on. We have to invite them to come and play in the USA, and eventually we hope to develop our own superstars."

The USA already has one major venue, in Florida, and Lockerbie said more are planned, either in new areas, such as Indianapolis, or by expanding existing facilities in California and New York.

"The proof will be, is the USA ready to undertake these type of events? When the US was announced back in the late 1980s as the host for the 1994 [soccer] World Cup, the world laughed and said 'what are they going to do with our game'. And yet we still hold the record for the most tickets sold at a football World Cup."

"Before the world laughs at the US taking on cricket, it's important to say we're going to do it well, we're going to do it smart, we're going to do it best and with the world's experts and put together a program that will be successful."

And he added that his plans were very much in tune with the ICC and would fit in with the existing international calendar. "We're going to make sure what we do has ICC backing. That's the promise we made when we did a presentation to the ICC in Dubai."

"We made a commitment we will be a significant contributor to the world of cricket and a good partner. I don't see us as a competitor, I see as being a partner in something that will make sense to the game as it continues to evolve."

"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 told The Associated Press 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 will start "no later than 2011."

Discussions have already begun with leading sports broadcaster ESPN, which has channels in the U.S. 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.

"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.

"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."

Formal proposals to develop professional cricket in the United States must be received by Aug. 7.

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