The general perception is that USACA leadership has failed to deliver even the most basic services to the cricketing population during the ten years of Gladstone Dainty's presidency.
By Venu Palaparthi
In Part 1 and Part 2, of this series, I analyzed the impact of Gladstone Dainty's presidential tenure on Team USA's onfield performance and growth in participation rates and sponsorship interest during his ten years as president.
In this article, I am going to examine USACA's governance and the tone at the top during Dainty's presidency.
[As I was putting finishing touches to this article, USACA published the findings of an independent review of its governance and it should come as no surprise that some of the points I make here were on TSE Consulting's USACA Governance Review report.]
Good governance relies on the cornerstones of inclusive representation, financial independence, impartial and prompt review of complaints, accountability and responsiveness to its membership and other stakeholders. USACA's leadership has rarely shown that they are magnanimous, democratic, transparent and imaginative.
Of course, for the more charitable, Dainty's iron fisted approach is exactly what USA cricket needs. Many Dainty's friends theorize that the 'crab mentality' that prevails in USA cricket does not permit a more transparent and inclusive system. I disagree. If you want to build a world-class organization, then you must build it on the right foundation.
In order to compete with other emerging sports and to regain lost ground, USACA needed to raise its game in several areas, something it has not done in the ten years under Dainty. Here is a quick look at USACA's performance in the cornerstone areas:
Communications and Transparency: Communications play a vital role in acquiring and retaining members, engaging with the community, generating brand awareness, acquiring participants and inspiring volunteers.
For USACA, the biggest failure over the years has been the lack of consistency, honesty and commitment to regular communications. Yes, Darren Beazley appears to be cut from a different cloth but if you look at the last ten years under Dainty, we have seen numerous examples of how not to handle communications.
Believe it or not, it wasn't always like this. Dainty issued monthly reports upon taking over the presidency in June of 2003. In his first report, Dainty wrote:"It is my intention to keep everyone abreast of the recent developments affecting our organization." That practice inexplicably ended in December of 2003.
A potential sponsor once called me in shock after he found out that USACA did not have a way to reach individuals affiliated to a member club or league. "How will our brand benefit from sponsoring USACA's activities if we don't even know how many people our sponsorship message will reach?"
Delayed communications, missing links in communications and and email leaks have been the norm for many years. [Ironically, even the recent TSE Governance report was leaked.] As for USACA's website and social media interactions, less said the better.
Vision and Capacity to Deliver: Forget having a vision with the ability to animate the sport's foot soldiers, during Dainty's tenure, USACA has suffered from a lack of commitment and capacity to deliver on even the most simple goals. USACA produced three strategy papers and several vision documents over the last ten years. It has been like the movie Groundhog Day each time, we have seen the same goals being repeated. Literally.
Sample this - the 2002 plan spoke of increasing the number of cricketers to 50,000 by 2006. The 2013 plan speaks of increasing the number of players to 50,000 by 2017. In September 2008, Dainty presented a document titled "A Vision for USACA." At the 2012 AGM, Dainty once again reissued the 2008 vision document and said it was as valid in 2012 as it was in 2008.
Commitment to Inclusiveness: A proud and engaged membership is the bedrock of good governance. Broader access to governance leads to improved services and stronger organizations. USACA has sung a different tune. Instead of including more members in governance, it has become increasingly exclusive. Voting rights moved from clubs to leagues, voices of smaller regions were muffled and representation became increasingly lopsided on the national board. From candidates in an election to committee participation, USACA's stance usually is - you are either with us, or you are our enemy.
Whether intentionally or due to the low priority it attaches to increasing membership, USACA is neither active in recruiting leagues nor is it transparent in making its membership public.
When you have regions with just 3 members, regional political equations play an oversized role in granting a league membership status with the accompanying voting right. Timing of granting or revoking membership is also a useful tool if the goal is to keep the club exclusive. A new league must spend a full year in probation before it can obtain a voting right and a league that has been suspended must wait a full year before it can reattain its right. Election year drama is a very predictable outcome.
USACA's elections, always controversial, continued in that vein during Dainty's tenure. While it was alleged that bogus and inactive leagues were allowed to vote in some elections, bona fide and active cricket leagues have cried foul in others. Take a quick tour of the election year news and you will, once again, be reminded of Groundhog Day.
Here is an excerpt from a Cricinfo article ahead of the 2005 election titled 'Elections marooned in murky waters': "The first sign of trouble can be found in the USACA official membership list, which is now part of the USACA website." In 2008, I wrote about the existence of bogus leagues: "There are leagues with neither a published schedule nor adequate grounds. They have neither a website nor are incorporated." A more perverse version of this election drama was staged in 2012.
Development: USACA technically promotes development of cricket through its regional and league framework. In reality, during Dainty's tenure, USACA has not had very much success in promoting development at the grassroots level. What little money was available from ICC was spent on selecting and sending teams to ICC tournaments. Resources were concentrated on the top-most rung of the pyramid.
Even when identifying representative teams, USACA has not had a consistent process that was made stronger through refinement. Instead, ad hoc approaches have been the norm.
Owing to lack of resources, USACA has contributed precious little to actual development work.
To fund development, Dainty and his leadership team have been overdependent on commercial rights. As I wrote in Part 2 of my analysis, the verdict is out on whether USACA will turn the tide with CHALLC. But it is fairly obvious that cricket would have been in a different place if at least some of the organizational bandwidth was allocated to other revenue streams such as sponsorships and membership.
Conclusion: As I conclude this rather dismal appraisal of the ten presidential years, there is a silver lining. If Mr. Dainty enthusiastically endorses the recommendations contained in TSE Consulting report, then perhaps that act alone will be remembered as his legacy instead of his utterly forgettable ten-year reign as President.
Just yesterday, USACA gave us some hope when it announced that it will seek consensus on a 'new approach to the governance of cricket in the USA.' The organization also mentioned that the recommendations made for 'a solid base for USACA to work from.'
If Dainty fails to drive this much needed change, then I hope he will at least pay heed to the seventh of the ten TSE recommendations. The seventh recommendation calls for term limits to 'allow for an optimal level of new vision and ideas on the board.'