On Thursday July 16th, the USA Cricket Board of Directors staged its quarterly Board Meeting remotely via video conference call. Among numerous matters considered, the Board spent time considering the following key areas:
Challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
The Board noted that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had presented USA Cricket with some significant challenges over the past few months.
In particular, it noted with disappointment that the previously planned zonal trials and national championships for men, women and youth, and the talent ID events for women and girls continue to be postponed. It also noted that the planned international calendars for both men and women have suffered numerous postponements and cancellations and that the remainder of the 2020 domestic and international playing schedule remains uncertain.
The Board also received an update from American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) on the latest plans in respect of the delivery of Minor League Cricket. As explained in an earlier media release here, an announcement about the Minor League Cricket competition in 2020 will be made towards the end of the month.
USA Cricket Chief Executive, Iain Higgins, explained “It has been an extremely frustrating past few months for players, fans and all those associated with USA Cricket as the playing calendar continues to be scaled back. Circumstances in the country are still very challenging, but USA Cricket remains committed to staging as many of the previously planned activities as we possibly can during the rest of the year. We will continue to reschedule and will announce alternative plans as soon as the situation becomes clear and stable enough that we feel able to conduct those activities safely.” He added, “We are also working with our colleagues at the ICC and Member Boards to reschedule postponed international matches and series into 2021 and beyond.”
With this uncertainty in mind and acknowledging the accompanying challenges faced by the global cricket economy, the Board also reaffirmed its earlier decision that full-time playing contracts for the current group of male players should be extended by a month until the middle of August, but that a revised structure would need to be put in place until there was greater clarity around the future playing calendar and funding. Higgins explained, “The Board is extremely sympathetic to the personal circumstances of the players and has worked hard throughout this pandemic to be able to retain all of them for the most part at full salary, and it has now agreed to extend those contracts for an additional period until mid-August. Whilst the national training squads have been active and engaged, none of our national teams have trained together or competed in over five months, and we simply do not know when that will happen next. As such, the Board unanimously supported a move to a more financially sustainable model until a greater degree of certainty returns.”
Unification of the cricket community across the USA
The Board received an update on the progress being made to establish relationships with Leagues across the country and to bring them on board as members of USA Cricket.
It noted that there had been a significant amount of dialogue between USA Cricket and many of the Leagues since the start of the year, led by the creation of a USA Cricket nationwide insurance program which many of them have benefited from.
USA Cricket Chairman, Paraag Marathe said, “The Board was pleased to note that there are now currently 60 Leagues representing approximately 15,000 players who have formally committed to join USA Cricket and with whom we have been able to forge healthy relationships over the past six months. Had COVID-19 not had such a significant impact on domestic cricket this year, the number of affiliated Leagues and players would have been even higher and we anticipate many more coming on board as cricket returns slowly across the USA. We are working hard to achieve our strategic objective of building trust across the community and this level of success in difficult circumstances is a good measure of how far we have come.”
The Board was also updated on the progress of an RFP process to identify a partner to help create a new membership portal for USA Cricket which will provide technology solutions and services that support the growth of and engagement with the domestic game at all levels. Marathe explained, “This is an extremely exciting project for USA Cricket that will help support the complete unification of the US cricket community and eventually create considerable value to all Members and the community as a whole. I know that many of the Leagues are excited about how this project can supplement their existing activities and, now that our RFP process has just about concluded, we look forward to presenting those plans in more detail and starting to roll them out over the next few weeks.”
A foundational plan to establish USA Cricket (July 2020 – December 2023)
The Board spent a significant portion of the meeting providing a further round of feedback into the latest version of a foundational plan, which will provide a framework to help deliver the ultimate strategic vision of USA Cricket, its core objectives and its key initiatives and priorities over the next few years.
Chairman of the USA Cricket Strategy Committee, Ajith Bhaskar, explained that “USA Cricket looks forward to sharing with the community the work that has been done to put together a comprehensive foundational plan and to moving quickly from that into implementation.
“We appreciate that there is a lot that could be done at every level of the sport across the country and that there are many competing ideas, philosophies and objectives. The Board has therefore acknowledged that, at this critical juncture, there needs to be some guiding principles, clear strategic objectives and agreed initiatives and timelines that will help us to focus our time and resources as effectively as possible. We are pleased with the work that has gone into this foundational plan and look forward to releasing it fully to the community very shortly.”