Cricket will be joining the crowded U.S. professional sports landscape as part of a $70 million licensing agreement between the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) and Pennsylvania-based Global Sports Ventures, LLC.
The move is a significant first step in growing the popular sport in the U.S., which has the second highest viewership of cricket in the world behind only India. More than 1.4 million people in the U.S. watched the ICC World Twenty20 competition won by West Indies earlier this year.
"The professional sports landscape is a notoriously tough market to break into, but we’re confident in the strength of the consumer demand in the U.S.," said Jignesh Pandya, the president and CEO of Global Sports Ventures. "This agreement allows us to grow the world’s second most popular sport right here in our own backyard."
Cricket was a popular American sport before the Civil War, with rules that were formalized by Benjamin Franklin in 1754. George Washington played cricket in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in 1778 and the first international competition in any sport was actually a cricket match between the U.S. and Canada, according to the USACA.
The multiyear licensing agreement means a franchised Twenty20 (T20) professional league will be established within the next year or so. There are ongoing talks about the number of teams, the cities in which they'll be based, they facilities in which they'll play, and the creation of player contracts for both men and women.
"It's not something we want to rush," USACA President Gladstone Dainty said by phone. "When we put that product together, we want it to be a quality product. We will immediately start to put it in place, but we won't rush it to market."