Hong Kong cricket stunned after shock announcement of chief executive Tim Cutler’s departure
With the sport seemingly riding high, mystery over Australian’s departure abounds
Cricket Hong Kong is looking for a new chief executive after the shock announcement that Tim Cutler will be leaving in May.
The Australian, who has helped to revitalise the sport in the city since being appointed its first ever CEO in 2015, would not comment on the reason for the surprise move on Friday.
Just weeks ago, after the success of the Hong Kong T20 Blitz tournament, he had been looking forward to a bright future, with talk of big-name sponsors coming on board for the 2018 edition of the event.
“I have been hugely honoured to lead Cricket Hong Kong. As the sport’s first CEO here it has been a rewarding challenge to champion so many transformational initiatives, but I feel the time is right to go out on a high and pursue new projects,” he said in a statement issued by the association.
“I look forward to seeing the sport here continue to build, growing cricket in Hong Kong and the region.”
He tweeted, “Onward and upward. The next challenge awaits ... All the best to HK moving fwd.”
A great 2 years! Onward & upward. The next challenge awaits. Currently considering options - so get in touch! All the best to HK moving fwd https://t.co/qc2jhCGP3M
— Tim Cutler (@timcutler) April 21, 2017
Members of the cricket community in Hong Kong were equally tight-lipped, with many learning the news for the first time when contacted by the SCMP.
The sudden announcement at a time when the sport seemed to be riding high had many speculating as to what might have gone on behind the scenes.
Cricket HK president Rodney Miles said in the statement: “Cricket in Hong Kong has never seen so much positive change as it has during the past five years. Tim has made a valuable contribution to the sport during his tenure, in terms of authoring our new long term strategy, championing our brand refresh, and being the driving force behind our increased media presence and enhanced international reputation.
“Furthermore, under Tim’s leadership the Hong Kong Twenty20 Blitz was devised and launched, which in its second year had almost 12 million views online – a great achievement and one we are committed to building on going forward.
“We will be sad to lose Tim but we appreciate the passion he has brought to the role and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”
— Hong Kong Cricket (@CricketHK) March 14, 2017
Under Cutler’s leadership, Hong Kong cricket underwent a rebranding and modernisation exercise and made major efforts to engage more of the local Chinese community in a sport still seen by many in the city as “a gweilo game”.
Mission Road was approved by the ICC as an international venue, and on the pitch the team played its first first-class internationals on home soil.
The popular Hong Kong Cricket Sixes is set to return this year – though Cutler’s departure possibly casts doubt on that – while the T20 Blitz, featuring many of the game’s top stars, was a huge hit.
Cricket HK claimed some 11.8 million views worldwide for their online streaming of the action from the tournament. On the back of that, a major sponsor was said to be lined up to bankroll next year’s edition.
World governing body the ICC even said other member associations should learn from Hong Kong’s delivery of the tournament – making Cutler’s departure all the more mysterious.