Dear members of the USA cricket community,

The past few months have been a challenging time for sports organizations across the world, and especially here in the USA.    

However, despite the fact that we have not been active on the field of play, USA Cricket has been hard at work putting together plans upon which the long-term future of cricket in this country can be built.  If we are to achieve our vision for cricket to become mainstream in the USA and for USA Cricket to become a Full Member of the ICC, then we need to put in the time and effort now to understand the landscape and challenges properly, agree the priorities and prepare detailed plans and strategies which will allow us to most effectively capitalize on the opportunity and realize the potential in front of us.  The recent period of cricketing inactivity has at least allowed us to focus on that, and I’m delighted by the progress that has been made during that time.  

The highlight, of course, in recent weeks has been the Minor League Cricket draft, itself the result of many months of planning and coordination, but there has been much more going on behind the scenes and I’m pleased to share the following update with you all: 

USA Cricket Membership Platform

For the past few months, we have been running a process to identify the right technology partner that can help build a new membership platform for USA Cricket.  We will be announcing the outcome of that process and launching our membership platform in the next few weeks.   

When complete, the platform will be capable of acting as a single destination for all leagues, clubs, tournaments, players and fans to receive news and updates about cricket in the USA.  It will allow for an integrated approach to membership within USA Cricket, anchored around the creation and verification of unique member IDs for all members.  Among other things, members will then be able to conduct and promote tournaments to the entire community, review and compare statistics and performance data in a central portal, live score and live stream matches, conduct player analytics and share significant milestones with the community through social media integration and the platform itself, get the latest announcements and communications from clubs, leagues and USA Cricket and access to merchandise, tickets and promotions. 

In short, the USA Cricket Membership Platform will be a secure, cloud-based, technology platform that will support all of the needs of all US cricket stakeholders and will be a huge step forward in our quest to further unify the cricket community in this country.

Although there has been very little cricket played over the past few months, we have been working closely with leagues across the country during this period to bring them on the journey with us and we currently have leagues representing nearly 16,000 individual players committed to joining USA Cricket through the USA Cricket Membership Platform, which is a fantastic start.  

USA Cricket Foundational Plan (2020-2023)

As mentioned in the release that followed the July Board meeting, further progress has been made to develop a plan to help shape the activities of USA Cricket and American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) over the next three and a half years, based around five core strategic objectives.  We are presenting the latest draft of the Foundational Plan to league representatives from across the country in the coming days, and hope to be able to finalize and publish it very shortly after that.  

Everything we do to develop the sport over the next few years will be guided by this Plan, so we are looking forward to sharing it with you all and moving towards implementation as soon as it is approved.     

Other key issues

We have continued to make significant progress on the high-performance support  structures and plans, and over the past few months, have started to gather and analyze relevant participation data that can help us to put in place strategies to grow the sport that are based on insight and understanding rather than assumptions and instinct: 

  • Development matters

We have recently a full review of participation data in the USA.  We now understand that there are approximately 113,000 regular participants of all ages and genders in the USA, but that the overwhelming majority of those are adult males and many of whom play a ‘modified’ version of the sport.  Whilst USA has the highest number of Senior Male Players and the third highest number of Junior Male Players out of all Associate Member countries, we are ranked much lower when it comes to Senior and Female Players, and the Development Committee recently concluded that our development plans need to include a very specific focus on increasing the numbers of female and junior cricket participation.    

Following on from that, we have also carried out a detailed survey of the scope of female participation across the country, the results of which will be presented to the Women & Girls Committee next month, so that it can help to construct activities and initiatives which can quickly start to increase the participation of women and girls in our sport. 

We have also concluded a nationwide survey (with support from our 24 volunteer youth coordinators) across all youth cricket activity across the country.  The Development Committee was pleased to see that there are 92 academies, 71 schools programs involving 95 schools, 30 youth league programs and 23 community programs that were active in 2019 in promoting youth cricket.  However, there was very little in the way of entry-level programs and activity was generally limited to a few key States.  This research has helped to lay the platform for the Development Committee to move forward with its priority initiative to develop an effective schools/community entry-level program, which we are now fully focused on.    

During the lockdown period, we have also been able to complete a review of the umpiring landscape across the USA and prepared a first draft umpiring program and pathway for umpires in this country.  It is hoped that this will be concluded at the next Development Committee meeting, so that we can start to better support the umpiring community across the USA.

  • Cricketing matters

Like everybody, we continue to be frustrated by the adverse impact that COVID-19 pandemic is having on the international playing calendar, with all of our planned fixtures since February this year all being postponed so far.  As a result of this inactivity and future calendar and revenue uncertainty, we have had to make changes to the men’s national team contracting structure, which we were extremely disappointed to have to do.  However, as has been explained to the players, these changes are temporary in nature and we will review our structure again before the end of the year, once we have a bit more certainty around the future playing calendar and our long term high-performance plans and budgets.   

Of course, we continue to work hard to try and put in place a coordinated set of fixtures for our national teams, but time appears to be against us in 2020 and our focus has extended into 2021 and 2022.  The time away from international cricket has, however, allowed us to focus on the development of a 4-year high-performance plan, which defines our high-performance principles, objectives and initiatives across four areas: performance, competitions, players and the supporting environment.  The Cricket Committee will be considering the latest draft of this plan at its next meeting.

There is also ongoing work-in-progress through the Cricket Committee in respect of the appointment of Youth Coaches for the Boys and Girls US National teams, and in respect of which we now started to interview short-listed candidates; and the development of important regulations governing the sanctioning of domestic cricket in the USA, which we anticipate publishing in the next couple of weeks.   

Finally, I’d like to underline that USA Cricket remains absolutely committed to staging zonal and national tournaments for men, women and youth if and when it is at all safe and practical to do so in 2020.  Our inability to deliver on the plans we announced in February has been one of the biggest frustrations of our year so far, so we will leave no stone unturned in our quest to put on zonal and/or national activities of some kind this year. 

  • 2019 Independent Audit

I am pleased to report that the independent audit of the 2019 financial statements has recently been completed and that USA Cricket has received a full, unqualified audit for its activities in 2019.  The work of the auditors was recently considered by the newly constituted Audit Committee and Board and USA Cricket will be publishing shortly further financial information about its activities in 2019 in accordance with relevant regulations.

Minor League Cricket (MiLC) – 2020 Draft

Obviously the MiLC draft has stirred some excitement and interest across the US cricket community, with a lot of people recognizing it as a game-changing moment for domestic cricket in the USA.  This is the first time ever that the USA will have a domestic nationwide tournament in which the best players will regularly play against each other on the best available facilities.  We are all very proud that MiLC has evolved to this point in such a short period of time through our partnership with, and the investment made by, ACE and the efforts made by a small group of staff, not to mention the passion and determination of the ownership groups that have been assembled.

Over 2,400 players registered for the draft, a significant and important exercise in itself.  And now, 324 of the best players in the country have already been included in 18 franchise squads, with six more squads still to be announced.  When COVID-19 eventually allows the tournament to be staged as originally envisaged, MiLC will provide plenty of opportunity for the best players to play regular competitive cricket that will be broadcast or streamed and followed closely by the USA Cricket selectors, so that selection for future national squads and teams can be based on more frequent and more relevant performance indicators.  

Looking at the list of players that have so far surfaced through this process and knowing what else may come fills me with great confidence about the depth and strength of future US national teams and squads, and we are particularly pleased to have been able to reserve spots on each playing squad for younger players, in whom we place significant importance and who will become a major focus for our efforts moving forward.

On the ownership side, a fantastic group of owners across the country have been assembled.  All of them have been traditional supporters of the sport and active in their local regions for many years, and they have each demonstrated a willingness to invest in strengthening the domestic structure in this country.  They have all committed to fund teams, develop turf wickets, help to develop youth high performance programs, grow the cricketing fanbase and contribute to the growth of the cricketing ecosystem in each area.  They are all dedicated to creating a competitive MiLC structure, and we are confident that their involvement and partnership will lift the standard of domestic cricket in this country immeasurable.  In some cases, particularly where there has been large levels of interest, the ownership groups have not yet been announced because they are still in the process of being finalized, and we continue to seek out more representative and diverse groups of owners from particular areas.  However, I’m pleased to confirm that there are plans to have at least two additional teams joining MiLC next year, with one in Seattle and one more team in the North-East, likely to be centered in New York where more time is needed to ensure that the right ownership group is put together. 

The drafting exercise is not yet complete with three more squad announcements due on Monday and the Chicago draft confirmed to take place on the 10th September.  Expect more news on both these events along with an update on the three Florida teams early next week.  

And beyond that, there is still a lot of work to be done for any of the planned exhibition matches to be played this season, with the provision of a safe environment being the most important factor in whether any MiLC matches taking place.  A comprehensive set of COVID-19 protocols have been prepared and are currently being reviewed by independent medical experts and will be shared with team owners and participants shortly.

I do hope you are all able to enjoy whatever exhibition matches may take place, and put your full support behind your local teams and the MiLC initiative as a whole.  We believe that this is a significant moment for cricket in the USA and we look forward to more exciting times ahead for all of us!  

With best wishes, 

Iain Higgins

USA Cricket CEO