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Last Updated: Monday, 13 September, 2004, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Selling cricket to America
By Pat Whitehorne
BBC News at The Oval

Gary Hopkins
Our goal is to serve our niche of existing cricket fans in the US
Gary Hopkins
US cricket development
Gary Hopkins faces a daunting prospect.

He has been appointed by the International Cricket Council to spearhead the development of cricket in the United States.

It is a challenge he relishes, but he knows it will not be easy.

"It's a huge task. But our goals are not to try and take on the major sports of football, baseball or hockey," he told the BBC.

"It's really to serve our niche of existing cricket fans in the US."

That niche is made up almost entirely of immigrants from cricketing nations - India, Pakistan, the Caribbean, South Africa and Britain.

Hopkins estimates there is a strong base of at least three to four million passionate fans who think nothing of staying up all night to watch a cricket match anywhere in the world on pay-per-view television, or listen to a match on radio.

It is that enthusiasm which he is aiming to capitalise on.

His priority will be to stage first-class matches with visiting international teams, across the US.

He hopes that gradually attendances at the grounds will expand from the die-hard aficionados to the curious American spectator.

Twenty20 fits all the things that Americans like about their sports
Gary Hopkins
It is a shrewd strategy but one that seems to have worked in his previous role, working in commercial development with the US Soccer Federation.

A decade ago soccer matches in the US attracted just a few thousand spectators of mainly South American and European origin. Nowadays, 90,000 capacity stadiums are sold out.

But cricket US-style will disappoint the purists as Test matches are not on Hopkins' agenda.

"There's absolutely no chance that any American will watch five days of cricket," he says.

His plan is to introduce Twenty20 matches with some of the world's cricketing stars taking part.

"Twenty20 fits all the things that Americans like about their sports.

You can package it and make it exciting and you can get in, watch it, and get out again quickly."

It is a format that would also suit television schedules.

Revenue raised from the matches together with ICC funding, will be channelled into developing the game at the grassroots level, improving grounds and encouraging home grown talent.

The US celebrate taking a wicket during their match against New Zealand
Interest has been boosted by reaching the ICC Champions Trophy
There are already signs that cricket is making a mark.

Although made up largely of expatriates, the national side's success in qualifying for the ICC Champions Trophy by winning the Six Nations Challenge, stirred some interest among the American press.

There are several hundred established clubs and a fledgling cricket league which has just ended its inaugural season.

And one of the biggest commitments so far is the $60m stadium and complex being built just outside Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

The stadium is due to open in autumn 2006 and was put forward as one of the venues for the 2007 World Cup.

The application failed, but Florida is still hoping to host pre-World Cup matches before the tournament gets underway in the Caribbean.

It will be a slow process, but Hopkins just one month into his new job, believes a cricketing culture can be created in the US, nurturing players and spectators.

"If the money is used wisely, I guarantee the Americans will develop a good team and they will become massively competitive."

"When Americans commit to do something - in sport - they usually do it well."

Links to more United States stories


Star spangled cricket takes shape
02 Jul 04  |  Cricket

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