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Cricket Canada looks to Boundaries North partnership to build on on-field success

Canada Cricket looks to make some noise this year, or at least some headlines. For the first time ever, Canada is headed to the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, scheduled for June in the West Indies and U. S. Canada cricket captain Saad Bin Zafar is shown in this handout image provided by Cricket Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Cricket Canada **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Canada Cricket looks to make some noise this year, or at least some headlines.

For the first time, Canada is headed to the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in June in the West Indies and U.S. And the Canadian men return to one-day international play later this year for the first time in almost a decade after regaining their ODI status last year.

That helped earn Cricket Canada a marquee new partnership with Coca-Cola Canada, a one-year deal with an option for two more.

Coca-Cola brands will be prominently featured on Canada's official kit and training gear while Bodyarmor becomes Cricket Canada's official sports drink.

'This is a globally recognized brand," said Cricket Canada president Rashpal Bajwa. "Having a partnership with them brings a huge exposure that Cricket Canada needs in Canada right now. The sport is growing. We just needed partners like that."

Cricket Canada has had such major sponsors as CIBC,Etihad Airways and Scotiabank in the past, but not recently.

Bajwa says some 60 per cent of Cricket Canada's funding comes from the International Cricket Council, the world governing body. Its contribution depends on how Canada does on the field and its work off it to develop the sport.

A small amount comes from Sport Canada with the rest coming from sponsors, fundraising and the GT20 tournament in Brampton, Ont.

Last year, Cricket Canada handed out 12 full-time and six part-time player contracts. They pay a modest amount but help pay the bills, with more pay when they go on tour.

The deal with Coca-Cola, a global sponsor of the ICC and at the World Cup, is the first major announcement from Cricket Canada's commercial partnership with Boundaries North, which was launched last April.

"It's the first but we are eagerly anticipating announcing a number of other significant brands who will be coming on board and supporting Cricket Canada in the near future," said Boundaries North CEO Rahul Srinivasan.

Bajwa says he expects Boundaries North to play "a vital role in the growth of cricket in Canada."

Cricket Canada's board is a volunteer affair, he notes. "These are guys who have the expertise," he said of Boundaries North.

The top dogs in the cricket world have test status and are considered full members of the ICC. Then there are associate members with one-day status — like Canada — and just associate members.

"In the world of associate cricket, sometimes the commercial elements can be a struggle for governing bodies to really wrap around and dedicate resources," said Srinivasan. "So it's our responsibility to create conversations with brands, negotiate commercial deals and then, most importantly, really shine a very bright light on Canadian cricket because so many good things are happening within our sport."

It's a relationship that evokes memories of Canada Soccer's much-maligned deal with Canadian Soccer Business.

As part of what Srinivasan calls "a multi-decade deal," Boundaries North pays Cricket Canada an annual fee in return for its commercial rights to the men's and women's national teams. Thereafter there are profit-sharing mechanisms on revenues generated.

"Both parties reap the benefits as the sport continues to grow … We've structured it in a way where both parties share in the upside," said Srinivasan, formerly chief commercial officer of the now-defunct Toronto Arrows of Major League Rugby and a former Canadian cricket youth international.

"In many ways we've learned from their agreement as well," he added, referencing the CSB deal.

Srinivasan is quick to distance himself from the CSB comparison, for obvious reasons. Cricket and soccer are at vastly different stages of their development in Canada, he argues. 

For one thing, due to a lack of infrastructure, it's hard to host games in Canada. Srinivasan says talks are underway with several municipalities over possible venues.

"It actually doesn't take a massive stadium for key international teams to come and play," he said.

"Once we have a venue, we will have a very very healthy calendar of cricket against top nations that I think broadcasters will be very keen to show across linear television," Srinivasan added.

Boundaries North is also investing in things like training camps for the Canada teams.

Canada is coming off a 3-0 ODI series loss in Nepal. Before that, it was beaten by Malaysia in the final of a 50-over tri-series also featuring host Hong Kong.

The matches were warm-ups ahead of ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 games starting next week against Scotland and the United Arab Emirates in Dubai. The eight-team league will take three years to complete.

CBC streamed some of the warm-up games. "A big win for us," said Srinivasan.

WEIC (Women's, Emerging, Inclusive and Community) Sports United, the investment group behind Boundaries North, started with rugby but is looking to branch into other sports "in a similar stage of growth that have similar needs."


Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter 


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2024

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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