The greater Fulton County area is home to professional sports teams of all varieties. We have football, basketball, baseball, and most recently soccer. These sports draw tens of thousands of visitors to our communities, with tremendous economic impact.
Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves…why not cricket?
The greater Fulton County area is an increasingly international community, and cricket has an international worldwide following of more than 2 billion. First played in England, cricket’s popularity now crosses continents, with major cricket leagues in South Asia, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean and Europe.
In fact, the Cricket World Cup has the third highest viewership in the world, after the FIFA World Cup and the Rugby World Cup. There is even a bid to bring cricket back to the Olympic games.
Here in the U.S., there are an estimated 200,000 cricket players and more than 400 local leagues. Just as soccer has become ubiquitous for young people in America, cricket leagues are growing in popularity in youth sports.
While cricket in the U.S. dates back more than 300 years, the greatest popularity of cricket in the United States is among immigrant populations, particularly those from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately, while the fan base is clearly there, the infrastructure for the sport of cricket is still lagging. There are limited facilities in the U.S., with the largest being in Florida and California.
Why not cricket?
A major cricket league and facility today have the potential to welcome some of the world’s two billion cricket followers to our front door. There is a great opportunity for a forward-thinking effort to build a world-class cricket stadium in the greater Fulton County area, which could have the potential to draw tens of thousands of visitors from the U.S. and abroad.
The fact is, many cricket fans already live here in our community. The greater Fulton County area is the gateway to the Caribbean, a direct connection to Africa, and proudly home to thousands of residents from India and Pakistan. Many others have visited nations around the world where cricket is king and want to see more international flavor in our own sports at home.
At least 10 cricket leagues are already in existence in our area, with dozens of teams playing hundreds of games per year. Unfortunately, many among us don’t have the opportunity to enjoy these cricket leagues because they are drawing from smaller existing communities of fans. But the opportunity is there to raise the profile of cricket here.
A decade ago, could we have envisioned that our Atlanta United professional soccer team could draw tens of thousands of visitors for every game? Yet this vibrant area has embraced its newest sports team with open arms, and you see their enthusiastic fans everywhere.
A proposal is underway to develop cricket leagues and venues in eight U.S. cities in the next two years. We need to ensure that the greater Fulton County area is on their short list of opportunities, which could bring thousands of jobs and millions in economic impact.
Let’s ask ourselves, once again, why not cricket?
Robb Pitts is the Chairman of Fulton County Board of Commissioners