Moving forward in the International Croquet Association requires Official invitations at each round, and the ICA is very strict about which Croquet associations get invitations and how many. A small regional club might get only a single invitation to host their official league game, while large corporate stadiums can move many more competitors onto the next round of ICA sanctioned games. Money follows the Crowds, the Crowds follow the Croquet players, and the
However, more than a few of those invitations are stolen, forged, or sold on the black market: the Croquet Underground.
Many criminal organizations pedal black market invitations to corporate sponsors looking to boost the presence of their team. However, there is money to be made in the spectacle of “No Holds Barred” Croquet Bloodsports.
Many Underground Croquet rings draw ICA players who have lost their tournament brackets, and have no other way to advance in the tournament. Truly this is a gambit for lost souls, because massive cash rewards draw in all manner of Croquet Prize Fighters: convicts, felons, and unsavory individuals with nothing to lose by bashing in a few heads.
Small underground rings are led by scoundrels and thieves who scramble for the crumbs off the plate of larger ring leaders and bosses, who pledge allegiance to still greater scum, until all criminals and thieves pledge allegiance to a single dark lord: The Wicket King.
No one has ever seen The Wicket King, and many call him a myth, a boogeyman , stories that croquet criminals tell their kids at night, “Rat out your pop, and the Wicket King will get you.”
Nonetheless The Wicket King is very real, and works through an intricate network of crime lords carrying out jobs without any indication of who they are really working for. Shipments of ICA regulation balls go missing, pressure is applied to the families of event staff, disobedient players are “whacked” all at the whim of a single mysterious individual.
However, oftentimes his actions align with a still greater malignant power. Though few have the information to piece it all together, some suspect that recent movements in the Croquet underground belies the machinations of the Shadow Organization known as the Pall Mall.