Wyness aims high for USA cricket
Keith Wyness has spelled out his belief that Twenty20 can be the launch pad from which American cricket soars into the stratosphere.
The 54 year-old former chief executive at Everton FC and Aberdeen FC has just been appointed as CEO by Cricket Holdings America LLC, which plans to start a franchise-based Twenty20 competition throughout the United States in 2013 and, speaking exclusively to Cricket Europe, Wyness outlined his plans to boldly go where many others have tried and failed before.
This seems to be as much about selling the format of the abbreviated format off the pitch as on it, to an American audience, which has grown up with the idea that sport and entertainment are synonymous.
“We have to learn lessons from how the IPL has prospered, make our approach as inclusive as possible and turn the matches into real occasions,” said Wyness, who is starting with a clean slate, bolstered by the knowledge that the sport is currently played in 48 states by nearly 50,000 players.
“The IPL reached out to Bollywood and I think that we have to do likewise with Hollywood and knock on the door of actors and rock stars such as Hugh [“X-Men”] Jackman, Russell [“Gladiator”] Crowe, Daniel [“Harry Potter”] Radcliffe and Mick Jagger], and get the message across to them and American sports fans that Twenty20 is a genuinely exciting sport, which is similar in many respects to baseball, and starts and finishes in the space of two-and-a-half to three hours. Cricket already has a lot of support in the US, but one of the reasons why I am so optimistic is that we have entered into this partnership with New Zealand [Cricket Holdings America LLC is a joint venture with NZC], and, for the first time, we have a proper cricket pyramid which should help us work with one of the full ICC Members for the benefit of everybody concerned.
“It is a big challenge, and I will be moving over to the United States with my family in the summer, but I don’t envisage there being any huge problems in capturing people’s imaginations with Twenty20, given how it has taken off in every other country. There is a big difference between Test cricket and Twenty20 and my task is to break through and introduce the sport to a mainstream audience. But, once we establish franchises and reach out to people, I am confident we can succeed. We will be organising some warm-up events this year, but the real action starts in 2013 and I’m excited by the prospect.”
Wyness even responded positively to my suggestion that the US should bid for a future World Cup – “Why not? We have to be bold here, but the Americans love sport and have already shown they can stage all manner of major events – but, for the moment, his focus is on the Twenty20 brand. This man won’t fail for lack of energy or effervescence.