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USA Cricket Town Hall: Migala asks USA cricket community to think big and focus small [Part 2]

2015 Sep 02 by DreamCricket USA

A statistical presentation by Ben Kavenagh was followed by a call to action by Dan Migala, CEO of Property Consulting Group. If there was a member of the audience that was not fired up after sitting through these presentations, then he clearly was in the wrong room.

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By Venu Palaparthi

The ICC CEO David Richardson's exhortation to unify and develop a shared vision resonated with large sections of the USA Town Hall at the start of the morning session. Following that, Ben Kavenagh, ICC Americas Regional Development Manager, showed the audience some recent statistics which held a mirror to the state of cricket affairs in this country.   Then came the call to action by Dan Migala, CEO of Property Consulting Group.  If there was a member of the audience that was not fired up after sitting through these presentations, then he clearly was in the wrong room. 

In Part 2 of DreamCricket's coverage of the ICC Town Hall, we will cover presentations by Ben Kavenagh and Dan Migala.  [Click here for Part 1]

Picture (L to R): Tim Anderson, David Richardson and Dan Migala at the ICC USA Town Hall 

Kavenagh's statistics were compiled after crunching data collected from over 100 USACA and non-USACA leagues.  He compared and contrasted the US data with other associate and full members and asked the audience to mull over the differences.  Here are some snapshots:

Senior cricket:  The total number of active cricketers in USA was close to 25,000 at end of 2014, a much larger number than Canada, Ireland, Netherlands and many other associate countries.  USA cricketers comprised a massive 65% of all ICC Americas players.  Canada accounted for 26% of the active cricketers and the remaining 14 Americas members accounted for the remaining 9%.

Kavenagh noted that USA had more men's cricketers than Zimbabwe and almost the same number of senior cricketers as New Zealand.

Junior cricket: USA is clearing lagging in junior cricket.  While the average number of junior cricketers was 8% across all associate and affiliate countries, USA's roughly 4,000 junior cricketers only accounted for 3% of all cricketers.  A more detailed assessment of this situation was conducted in the afternoon break out session.

Women's cricket: In women's cricket, there was no critical mass of players in the USA.  USA had almost the same number of women's cricketers as the much smaller Cayman Islands (4 teams) and Canada (5 teams).  These statistics underscored a point that the ICC CEO made later in the day that the ICC's investment dollars on associate countries for women's cricket needed to prioritize development of women's cricket at the grassroots over supporting participation in competitions.  

Non-ICC funding:  The fourth area of Kavenagh's presentation was funding from non-ICC sources.  As readers are aware, USACA has tried to leapfrog membership led funding or sponsorships by negotiating commercial deals which have proved to be non-starters.  According to data provided by Kavenagh, USA had negligible non-ICC income, a number in the tens of thousands of dollars.  On the bar chart that was displayed, the bar barely rose from the axis.  In comparison, Afghanistan's national governing body had raised $1.5 million from non-ICC sources in 2014 and Ireland had raised $3.5 million during the same period, Kavenagh said.   According to Kavenagh, Netherlands, Scotland, Kenya - all had raised much larger amounts than USA.  This inability for USA cricket to fund itself is clearly an aberration in a country that spends more dollars on sport than any country on the planet.

Other metrics:  USA had no full-time employees for cricket, its facilities were not as highly developed as Ireland and its coaching capabilities were not in proportion with the number of men's players.  This last point has also been written about previously.  In the U.S., there was one certified coach for every 50 players.  In Canada, that ratio was roughly 11:1.

Kavenagh's presentation set the course for Dan Migala's rousing pitch that followed.  Migala is a sports marketing expert and the CEO of Chicago based Property Consulting Group, which has advised nearly every major sports franchise including MLB, NHL, NBA, NCAA, LPGA and Cricket Australia. 

"Put yourself in a different lens"

Dan Migala began by reeling off the numbers that we have come to associate with cricket in the U.S.  An estimated 15 million cricket fans, a number that was corroborated by the 13 million unique US visitors that ESPNcricinfo said had accessed their website for updates during the World Cup semi-final between India and Australia.  Migala also noted that 2.628 million viewers had watched the final.  During the World Cup, the ESPNcricinfo website received 5.8 million unique visitors per day over 44 days.  Not bad for a country that has just 200,000 cricketers who have played any kind of cricket. 

Migala proceeded to highlight some other interesting statistics.  40% of the U.S. cricket fans were interested in the olympics and 15% of MLS fans were interested in cricket.  50% were married with children and a large number of them were 25-49 years old with household income over USD 100,000.  Cricket fans demonstrated similar spending habits and were more likely to own a full-size or luxury car, go to sit-down restaurants and sign up for AT&T.   The point he tried to make was that there was gold to be mined if we knew how to do it. 

Picture (Right): Dan Migala (Courtesy: Northwestern University)

"Take a rational look at where we are at at this moment instead of getting emotional," Migala said.  There was plenty of opportunity for fan nurturing and fan engagement, especially in Twenty20 cricket. 

Migala said there were plenty of parallels between cricket today and soccer in the 1980s and 1990s.  The US Soccer Federation was on the brink of bankruptcy throughout the late 1980s.  FIFA had assisted the USSF to establish governance and structure, Migala said.   Following that, when USA secured qualification for the world cup by defeating T&T in a qualifier in 1989, FIFA reaffirmed its decision to host the World Cup in the US. 

The 1994 world cup was the tipping point and generated $60 million in profits setting off a series of events that have made soccer the powerhouse that it is today.  "In the last world cup, more Americans tuned into US soccer games than the NBA finals, MLB World Series and NHL Stanley Cup final," Migala said. Migala also noted that the women's soccer was a huge economic engine.  The women's team's victory in the world cup was watched by 25.4 million viewers.

"There are not many sports that boys and girls can play together," Migala said noting that junior cricket had the same advantages as soccer because it was a non-contact sport.

Migala said it all starts with a mission statement that is bold and visionary.  Bringing up a slide that contained MLS' mission statement from 20 years ago, he said it is as valid today as it was then.  It placed an emphasis on developing an American identity for soccer and on bringing together an army of believers regardless of their background, color or creed.  Fast forward 20 years, and in 2014 MLS had the highest ever attendance at its games, more than NBA and NHL.  

The key learnings for cricket from the soccer case study, Migala said, were "Stand for something, take risks, tell a story, own a moment at a time."  Migala said that it was important for cricket to go where the puck or the ball was going.  In 1994, when US soccer was getting started, US Soccer targeted 18-30 year olds and was skewed towards Hispanics before reaching out to younger players and a wider audience.  Emphasizing on giving the sport an American identity, Migala said perhaps rules could be simplified at the youth level.

Migala asked the USA cricket community to, "Think big and focus small as you script a narrative for cricket in the USA."   The goal should be to host and win the World Cup in the US by 2044 he said.   Migala said that governance and administration, infrastructure development, national team performance, focus on youth and women, and fan development were the biggest priorities facing USA cricket. 

It was very important to create a fan nurturing and engagement strategy and to establish a youth participatory benchmark. Referring to the demographics and stats for the US cricket fan, Migala called cricket a challenger sport which had a lot of appeal to challenger brands.  "You have to engage the USA commercial marketplace," he emphasized.

In closing, he left the audience with a few interesting anecdotes. 

The Michael Clarke 23 jersey was the best selling jersey in the St. Louis Cardinals store during 2014.  The jersey celebrated Clarke's first pitch at a Cardinals game in April of 2014.

In 2014, the MLB invited Migala to speak on "Lessons learned from Cricket" where he spoke to them about the success of the Big Bash, the league that he was closely involved with.

Pic (Right): Clarke at the Cardinals game in April 2014.  Credit: Twitter.