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City of Indianapolis terminated its agreement to host the national championships citing USACA's failure in three key areas - absence of single point of contact following Darren Beazley's departure, failing to provide information regarding the lead-up tournaments that determine the regional representatives, failing to work with the city on identifying potential sponsors and partnerships.
The announcement came just three days after USACA announced the appointment of Sunil Kumar as Project Manager for the USACA National Championships. However, this important appointment was inexplicably delayed and two months passed between the departure announcement of Darren Beazley and the appointment of Mr. Kumar as project manager.
This morning, the championships website went offline and visitors were presented with a notice stating that the site was undergoing maintenance.
A notice of termination was circulated some hours later. In the notice, John Williams, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation noted the lack of communication after the departure of Darren Beazley. "This lack of communication with USACA has resulted in numerous setbacks which, based on our experience, having hosted numerous world class events, the City recognizes as detrimental to an event of the quality deserving of cricket and the City," Mr. Williams wrote.
In his farewell letter, Mr. Beazley wrote: "I am also thrilled to see the 2014 Lead In Series begin to “take shape” and begin the preparation for the 2014 US Cricket National Championships. Each Region will conduct their inter League matches and with the support of CricInfo, we intend to promote US cricket as never before. I encourage you to get out in May to watch Lead In Series match near you." Nearly two months later, few regions published any schedules for the "Lead In" Series.
Not surprisingly, City of Indianapolis did not take kindly to the lack of information. The Indianapolis official wrote: "The National Men's Cricket Tournament was conceived to showcase top-level competition from across the country; however, to date USACA has failed to provide information on the lead-up tournaments that determine the regional representatives."
Just days before the tournament website went down, the organizers announced a $25,000 title sponsorship with benefits such as free seating, VIP parking and an opportunity to discuss cricket with USACA President Gladstone Dainty. For sponsors who wanted to associate their brand with cricket, the real ask was these lead-up tournaments and the CricInfo exposure that came with them. The letter from the Indianapolis official did not mince words regarding this USACA failure. "The lead-up tournaments were designed to both create exposure for the National Tournament, which helps market the tournament to both potential sponsors and spectators, while also ensuring the elite competition indicative of the title."
Following Beazley's departure, the City had to cancel its weekly conference call, a critical component of a high-quality event. "The former CEO of USACA was working with the City on identifying potential sponsors and developing partnerships, however, since his departure, USACA has ceased those conversations," Mr. Williams noted.
USACA's former CEO Darren Beazley held negotiations in 2013 with Indianapolis to conduct the national championships at the World Sports Park between August 21-24, 2014. Complete terms of the agreement were not disclosed but USACA said that the deal with Indianapolis was a multi-year deal extending to 2016. The notice released today states that the termination would become effective 60 days from the receipt of the notice. The notice also makes it clear that the city is not hosting the 2014 tournament.
Beazley's exit and other recent USACA-related events resulted in a spate of bad press for the City of Indianapolis and its Mayor Greg Ballard. "The city has been aware of some of the issues for some time, and it's nothing new. But we have also been working very closely with (the ICC) to make sure that everything taking place in Indianapolis sets the stage for helping to grow cricket in North America," Marc Lotter, spokesman for Mayor Ballard, told WIBC earlier in May. Speaking on behalf of USACA, Michael Gale, the organization's First VP, said, "Indianapolis has been an amazing host so far." Mr, Gale gave the Mayor's office gave USACA a vote of confidence saying "seven of the eight regions that will be coming here to play have already booked their hotel rooms."
However, weeks after the emergence of these news reports, USACA still failed to assign responsibility for the successful organization of the tournament. And the tournament's affairs appeared to still rest in the hands of the Tournament Advisory Committee - a collection of USACA administrators, Indy based cricket afficianados and a City Ambassador for Indanapolis World Sports Park.
This is a huge setback for USACA and comes after a similar lack of confidence was expressed by Mayor Richard Kaplan of Lauderhill who even approached the ICC to intervene. With the two biggest cities who have invested in cricket in recent times having second thoughts, USACA has a major public relations task on its hands.