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Daily Newsletter

TIME OUT Explains: An Open Letter

(The following letter was addressed to US cricket club and League officers, and contained materials provided by TIME OUT, the sports consulting firm.
The letter is not signed, but it is suggested in the letter that it was written by Mark Mascarenhas, President of Worldtel (see first paragraph). We were NOT able to verify this information, So we have treated the letter as if it was written by TIME OUT.
We have deleted almost all specific references to persons, except for Mr. Billy Packer of TIME OUT, which sent out the letter. Other text has also been deleted, for reasons of space.
The letter fills an important gap in the set of opinions expressed regarding the USACA, since this is the first time that TIME OUT has been directly heard from. We are letting the edited text stand as written, but have added our comments where clarification seemed to be necessary.)

It has always been a dream of mine to see the United States take its place in the global cricket community. .. My company, Worldtel, has been involved with cricket since 1993, when we were awarded the television rights to the 1996 Cricket World Cup...

All this time, I have retained the dream of bringing the best cricket in the world to the United States. Since 1995, [my partner] Billy Packer and I have devoted considerable time -- and as has been our hallmark, significant "up-front" investment -- to an effort to work with the USA Cricket Association to bring this about. I remain optimistic, but I would like to share with you details of our experience with the USACA and particularly, the obstacles placed in our way. I believe the upcoming election of USACA officers presents an opportunity to chart a positive course for USA cricket, but to do this it is important to learn from what hapened in the past.
**(The election referred to is for the members of the USACA Board, which is currently on hold until after the General Meeting of the USACA on November 4...see
USACA General Meeting. The officers are to be elected in 2001, not 2000... by the newly elected Board.)

It all started in 1995, when Billy and I went down to Disney World to meet [the] Vice-President of Walt Disney World Sports. Billy Packer had been contracted to run basketball camps there and had learned about the large number of visitors the parks got from cricket-playing countries. ... We thought a partnership with Disney would be a good way to raise the profile of the sport here and improve the national team...

It quickly became clear that [Disney] had little interest in the broader picture of cricket across the USA... Had Disney been willing to deliver cricket on a regular basis--and had the USACA stood to gain the funds required to build a nation-wide, world-class infrastructure -- we would have been very happy to join hands.But this was not the case, and we moved on...
**(This is the first we have heard about World Tel and Time Out approaching Disney directly, BEFORE signing an agreement with the USACA--see below. So, why should TIMEOUT have been concerned about whether "the USACA stood to gain the funds required to build a nation-wide, world-class infrastructure", if it had no agreement with the USACA at the time?
The role of TIMEOUT in discussions with Disney is, in any case, portrayed rather differently by the USACA-- see Reply to Time Out. )

We then proposed to the USACA a two-pronged plan to develop cricket in this country.
(1) We would finance the preparation of the USA national cricket team for the 1997 ICC Trophy tournament...
(2) We also structured a way to bring major international teams here to play against each other...

Billy and I met with the four officers of the USACA and signed an agreement incorporating this strategy. ... Essentially, our company would advance monies to the USACA and earn back this investment from fees received from the sale of television and sponsorshp rights to international matches played here....
**(The text of the agreement has never been published, either by USACA or by TIME OUT, although the USACA has now offered to release the complete agreement and associated correspondence to whoever requests it--see Reply to Time Out. )

Unfortunately, our efforts were thwarted by International Cricket Council (ICC) officials one would have thought should be pleased to see USACA poised to make progress.

[The] Chairman of the ICC Development Committee.. proclaimed that Disney was the ultimate, even the ONLY, opportunity to develop cricket in the USA....[He] refused to include USACA officers in his visit to Disney World, giving the..excuse that his was a "government-to-government" mission.

At the same time, the ICC ...undermined the USACA and its officers in a more direct fashion. ...[they] questioned the legitimacy of the USACA, and accordingly whether the USACA officers we were dealing with ...were legally elected. [they] even circulated to ICC members a detailed document prepared by the then renegade United States Cricket Federation (USCF)...
**(The USCF had been trying for years to question the procedures and policies of the USACA, and several "detailed documents" were submitted over the years to the ICC.)

Effectively, then, [the ICC] killed our best efforts and by doing so squandered several years of potential growth for our favorite sport in this country of unlimited opportunity.

In May that year, USCF members joined USACA, a new constitution was approved for the USACA and new elections were held...[the ICC] took this opportunity to propose still another Disney tack, which [it was claimed] would benefit the newly reconstituted USACA. ... [a] year later the ICC concluded that [they] had to let go of the USA and that the chase of Disney was a "waste of time".
**(This is not the version of events available from the USACA -- according to them, the ICC "let go" of the USACA because of the threat of lawsuits from TIMEOUT. This is described in detail in Reply to Time Out.. The USACA tried to dissassociate itself from TIMEOUT's legal action (see Interview with R. Craig ) but the ICC did not change its position.)

But we still renewed our efforts.

Working with the USACA, we persuaded the Australian Cricket Board to agree to send us a good A team to play in the USA and then arranged for them to play against s top Indian A squad...The America Challenge was the historic first major cricket event in the USA to be televised globally...
**(There was controversy at the time as to whether the USACA had really been "worked with". The President of the USACA said he had agreed to the plan, but the Southern California Cricket Association (SCCA), host for the proposed series, whose President was also Secretary of the USACA at the time, said they had not been consulted and were given insufficient time and resources to prepare for the series. There are still unresolved disputes between TIME OUT, SCCA and USACA over who was really responsible, what expenses were incurred and who should be paying them; for more background on the issue, see Reply to Time Out..)

...we got to work on creating [a] world-class wicket here in the USA. To my great pleasure, a USACA Board Director,... Leslie Lowe, told me there was an opportunity to create one in the Borough of Queens in New York city. ..
**(Excerpts from Mr. Lesley Lowe's letter have also been printed in CRICINFO-USA, see Another Look at the USACA.)

[But] although our continued interest has been encouraged by several USACA Board members, we have not had one constructive conversation for over a year...
**(The current USACA officers have said that they have repeatedly tried to meet with TIME OUT, but with no success. According to them, TIME OUT insists on meeting not only with the officers but with all members of the USACA Board; the officers say they are entitled to speak on behalf of the USACA. A more complete explanation is offered in Reply to Time Out.)

We cannot afford to squander any more chances. I urge all of you to take charge of the chance in front of you. ...we must make the most of this opportunity for a new beginning in 2000!

Let's make it happen together.

**(The closing statements in the letter are presumably intended to create support for TIME OUT among the rank-and-file membership of the USACA. This requires all readers to take TIME OUT's comments in the context of ALL stated facts and opinions.)

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Date-stamped : 21 Oct 2000 - 09:10