The Vice-Chair and MD of India’s largest media conglomerate The Times Group, with the founders of USA cricket broadcaster Willow TV have reached agreement with governing body to establish a professional T20 league in the United States in a “watershed moment” according to USA Cricket Chair Paraag Marante.

Slated to begin in 2021 its broadcast and distribution will be spearheaded by Willow TV who have 4 million subscribers across North America. The players in the major / minor league structure will be filled with both local and international talent and the project will include establishment of regional academies, new and upgraded international venues as well as significant investment in national teams programmes.

USA Cricket initiated a Request for Proposals (RFP) process in November last year. It called for proposals from potential partners to “fund, launch, and operate the first professional T20 league in the United States”. (pdf link)

Overnight USA Cricket, the governing body for cricket in the nation recognised by the ICC since January, announced that they had selected American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) as its strategic partner.

This is a watershed moment for cricket in the United States and we look forward to a long-lasting, successful partnership.

Paraag Marante, USA Cricket Chair

ACE is backed by Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan, the founders of Willow TV, the largest cricket broadcaster in North America, and Satyan Gajwani and Vineet Jain, the principals of The Times of India Group, India’s largest media conglomerate.

Alongside its myriad newspapers and other media interests Time of India have had a majority stake in CricBuzz since 2014 as well as in Willow TV itself which was completed in 2016.

After many turbulent years of administration the United States Cricket Association (USACA) had their ICC membership terminated in 2017. The international body set up a project office in the country to prepare for the establishment of a new governing federation and USA Cricket was confirmed as the 105th Member (and the 93rd Associate Member) of the ICC in January this year.

In their October elections the membership of USA Cricket voted Paraag Marante as an independent director, who was in turn elected unanimously by the board as Chair. Marathe, President of 49ers Enterprises and Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the 49ers, has spent 18 seasons with the NFL franchise, serving in a variety of roles including as the club’s chief contract negotiator and overseeing the construction of Levi’s Stadium.

Based on a major / minor professional league model, the new facilities will provide, for the first time ever in the U.S., the ability to stage and support major domestic and international cricket at all levels.

USA Cricket release.

The announcement follows decades of failed attempts to establish a successful professional national league in the USA. This most recently included a reported $2.4bn deal with St Lucia Stars owner Jay Pandya to run which included a plan to build a dozen new stadiums however recent events alongside today’s news indicate a threat to the project going ahead.

“The launch of the new professional league will be slated for 2021 and ACE has commenced major infrastructure investment towards international grade cricket venues in several U.S. metropolitan markets. ACE will also (be) working to develop additional turf cricket pitches and auxiliary facilities in more than a dozen locations. Based on a major / minor professional league model, the new facilities will provide, for the first time ever in the U.S., the ability to stage and support major domestic and international cricket at all levels. In addition, ACE will provide support for USA Cricket’s men’s and women’s national teams to ensure they can capitalize on their recent successes at the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 and the ICC Women’s Americas Qualifier, respectively,” the release also stated.

“Cricket has the second largest audience in the world, and yet has little presence in the largest professional sports market,” said Satyan Gajwani of The Times of India Group. “We want to develop a lasting institution that brings to the U.S. the excitement and passion of cricket, enjoyed by billions of people globally. True grassroots development of any sport takes decades and we are excited and committed to play a role in developing world-class cricket in America.”

“After a successful run in establishing the U.S. as a major broadcast market for international cricket, we are now excited to partner with USA Cricket to take American cricket to the highest levels through the new T20 league,” said Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan of Willow.

The release went on to say:

A key highlight of ACE’s proposal is distribution, sponsorship and exposure for the professional league and for USA Cricket’s national teams via major TV and digital broadcast platforms, led by Willow TV which has over 4 million subscribers and is the main U.S. broadcaster for major international cricket including: the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) championships and matches from the Indian Premier League, Cricket Australia, the England Cricket Board, Cricket South Africa, Cricket West Indies, the Pakistan Super League, the Pakistan Cricket Board and Sri Lanka Cricket. In addition to the Willow assets, ACE and USA Cricket will seek out “free to air” platforms as well to ensure mainstream audiences are exposed to the league.

The Times of India Group is India’s largest diversified media company. Started in 1838, the Times Group expanded from its flagship newspaper, The Times of India Group, the largest English newspaper in the world, into operating leading media assets across print, internet, TV, radio, film, music, events, education, and more. ACE’s proposal includes planning for media, marketing, reach and distribution across Times Group’s entire range of assets.

Overall, ACE’s plans are anchored by strong financial support from a diverse investor group, who are unified around a passion for cricket, and a track record of success across a wide spectrum of industries: media, technology, finance, supply chain, logistics and professional sports.

Following the completion of the International Cricket Council’s Cricket World Cup—set for May 30 to July 14 in England and Wales—USA Cricket and ACE will announce additional details regarding the new league, including plans for a launch event.

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