USA Cricket Chairman Paraag Marathe speaks on his future in cricket, defends ACE/USA Cricket Partnership

Paraag Marathe, Chairman of the Board for USA Cricket

It has been 17 months since the 2020 USA Cricket board elections were intended to occur. Citing the challenges associated with Covid-19, along with the desire to expand the voting base to capture a more accurate picture of the “will of the people” (so to speak), USA Cricket passed a referendum which postponed the 2020 elections.

The methods and legality of this referendum have certainly been questioned, enough that a lawsuit was filed by Individual Director Venu Pisike and Player Director Srini Salvar against five members of the board. But it is not unprecedented in the United States of America for an election to be postponed for reasons similar to those originally cited by USA Cricket.

On June 28, 2021, the North Carolina State Board of Elections announced the passing of Session Law 2021-56. This law ensured that “regular municipal elections in the city of Raleigh shall be held in even-numbered years,” moving 2021 elections to 2022. It also required “local governments with delayed 2021 elections to review and revise those electoral districts following the release of the 2020 U.S. Census data.”

Unlike North Carolina, USA Cricket has left members vexed and speculating as to why these 2020 USA Cricket board elections have not yet transpired.

The aforementioned lawsuit alleged that the defendants had violated the USA Cricket constitution when, in their mission to expand the national voter base, USA Cricket planned to include recent members who had not held membership for at least 12 months.

After seeing their lawsuit initially dismissed in July of 2021 by the district court in Boulder, Colorado, the two plaintiffs pressed on. The pair also complained publicly when USA Cricket, after missing the 2020 elections, permitted Paraag Marathe to be appointed again as USA Cricket Chair by the board. Pisike and Salvar suggested that the board should wait until the 2020 elections finally occur, so that the new board configuration could select the chairperson. 

On May 16, USA Cricket triumphantly announced that the lawsuit was dropped by Pisike and Salvar. 

On May 17, USA Cricket announced that Chairman Paraag Marathe would complete his term and step aside. 

That same day, ESPNcricinfo published a piece by Peter Della Penna in which Venu Pisike suggested that Marathe’s “resignation,” along with the fact that 2021 registered voters have been members now for one year, satisfied himself and Salvar enough to drop the lawsuit. 

Following that article, USA Cricket Chairman Paraag Marathe spoke to Emerging Cricket, and clearly took issue with Pisike’s characterization of conditions for the dropped lawsuit.  

“My intention was always to build the initial inertia for USA cricket. It isn’t that I’m stepping down as a condition to end a lawsuit,” Paraag Marathe told Emerging Cricket. “I mentioned to the board at the end of 2021, and again in January 2022, that I was going to step down from the governing body. This was always my plan. I am not leaving cricket in the USA, I am committed as I always have been. This is just the close of one chapter and the beginning of another…there are other ways to contribute and I plan to fully dive in to help the game grow here. My future is with the commercial interests.”

“My goal is to help build something that outlasts my career and my lifetime.”

The ESPNcricinfo article also revealed that USA Cricket were contractually obligated to give American Cricket Enterprises (also known as Major League Cricket) 95% of their cricket-related commercial revenue, leaving USA Cricket with 5%. USA Cricket would also receive a minimum annual payment every year from ACE, with USA Cricket receiving $399,000 for 2022.

Pisike is quoted in the article speaking about that deal, saying “I personally think the current contract doesn’t benefit USA Cricket or its constituents hence we need [and] desire a contract that is good for all parties including ACE.”

Marathe’s opinions about the deal couldn’t be more contrary to Pisike’s. 

“I’m as bullish about the future of cricket in the USA as I’ve ever been. We actually have a functioning partnership with ACE/MLC. Once we completed the RFP and agreed to the binding term sheet, it was going to be a partnership for a long, long time. But it is a partnership that works for all parties. It is something that I believe will soon become the blueprint for global cricket partnerships.”

“Our charter as board members is to promote the game of cricket within the USA. We’re here to promote the game in this country, not to further personal agendas. We are together with MLC to build something big, something that is a model for others.”

It is Emerging Cricket’s understanding that ACE is indeed entitled by the partnership to 95% of USA Cricket and ACE revenues, while USA Cricket is entitled to 5% of all cricket-related commercial revenues from USA Cricket and Major League Cricket. 

 Because Major League Cricket does not launch until 2023, these revenues have not yet exceeded the minimum guarantee, hence USA Cricket is now collecting only the minimum annual payment of $399,000 in 2022.

It is also Emerging Cricket’s understanding that, in spite of the terms of this deal, USA Cricket has been permitted to keep 100% of sponsorship money raised for USA Cricket so far.

Not only did USA get to keep all of the Sistar Mortgage sponsorship monies, but MLC (Major League Cricket) sourced that deal for USA Cricket. “MLC wants us to maximize our revenue and see us succeed,” added Marathe.

A 95/5 split of all cricket-related commercial revenues might appear to some as a bad deal for USA Cricket on the surface. But when you look at American professional sports, you can see that USA Cricket could stand to benefit quite well.

The ceiling is exceptionally high in the USA for professional sports, considering the profitable NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS leagues. Try to imagine USA Baseball collecting 5% of Major League Baseball’s $10 billion in 2019! 

While MLC won’t dream of approaching the revenue figures of Major League Baseball, even the ground floor looks good. For example, last year’s Premier Lacrosse League’s championship game registered 333,000 total viewers. That was enough to earn the PLL an eight figure media deal with ESPN across four years. For clean math, let’s assume that this eight figure deal is worth exactly $10 million. Let’s also assume that USA Lacrosse, like USA Cricket, receives 5% of all lacrosse-related commercial revenues. With the conditions we’ve defined, USA Lacrosse would receive $125,000 per year from TV revenue alone for the next four years.

Considering the world-wide popularity of franchise cricket in relation to the regional popularity of franchise lacrosse, along with the existing stable of American cricket fans, It is reasonable to expect Major League Cricket to demand much more than the PLL media deal. Simply doubling that deal would put USA Cricket near their minimum guarantee with their share of TV/media value alone. 

After completing his term with USA Cricket, Marathe intends to help Major League Cricket maximize such deals, which will certainly then benefit USA Cricket.

“I accomplished what I sought out to do, and now I’m going to focus on what I’m really good at, which is to build something (Major League Cricket),” Marathe continued. “This was always my plan since day one. I’m not leaving until the elections are done, and a suitable replacement is found and voted in by the new board. And even then, I will be working closely with them. ” 

“You just have to see the forest through the trees and not just focus on the negative stuff. We are really close to turning the corner and it will really help with the growth of the National teams.” 

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