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[Part 2 of DreamCricket.com’s coverage of the USA Cricket Association AGM.]
Click here for “USACA holds AGM, promises merit based incentives - Part 1”
Increase in Membership Fees
A considerable debate ensued when the Treasurer, John Thickett, touched upon the work of the sub-committee that worked to develop new membership fees and insurance coverage.
The new club member fees of $100 per club without liability insurance and $200 with liability insurance, constitute a substantive increase from the previous year when clubs paid $30.
Pic (Right): John Thickett, USACA Treasurer, presents to the AGM.
Certain members (including this author) expressed reservations on the lack of communication on the rationale for the increase, while some others questioned the quantum of the increase.
In response, members of the USACA board offered their thoughts on the question of the quantum of the increase.
Firstly, Raj Padhi of the Western Region, who was part of the sub-committee that reviewed the membership fees along with Krish Persaud and John Thickett, explained that prior to the increase, a club was paying $30 in membership fees and (on average) about $125 for liability insurance (i.e. a total of $155). Mr. Padhi said that he had negotiated a lower cost insurance plan and the present total cost per club inclusive of insurance came to $200, which was only $45 more on average. In addition, the new plan offered an early payment rebate of 25% or $50 to the region. After considering the rebate, this was a win for the clubs and regions, Mr. Padhi explained.
Certain members offered a counterpoint stating that the aforementioned logic could not be applied to leagues that had opted out of USACA negotiated insurance coverage. They said that they had good reasons to opt out - they had better or cheaper insurance coverage than what USACA had negotiated or found the insurance cover to be excessive when compared to their needs.
In this context, Sankar Renganathan of Great Lakes Cricket Conference suggested a per-player insurance plan instead of a per-club plan as a way of realizing further savings.
In an attempt to bring things to a closure, Mr. Dainty took to the podium and said that the sub-committee would remain open to constructive inputs on achieving additional savings on insurance premiums. Mr. Dainty was emphatic in saying that USACA was not going to sugarcoat the issue of the fee increase. He said that the intent of the sub-committee was to adjust and increase the club membership fee. The fee, which was pegged at $30 for over a decade, had remained very low for too long - a point that many board members agreed with. For a club which had 15 players, the new $100 fee was still affordable at less than $7 per annum per player. Mr. Dainty said that clubs may petition for additional time but there was no question of a rollback. He said that the rebate of $25 or $50 to the region, as applicable, was a welcome outcome, but really was incidental to the entire exercise.
Talking about the impact on USACA's finances, Mr. Thickett said that roughly $30K or less than 7% of USACA revenue in 2009 was from membership fees, a very low percentage when compared to other associates and affiliates. The present increase would certainly help to increase USACA's financial capacity. Mr. Thickett noted that one of the things on his list was the development of individual membership options and a way for members to use credit cards to pay fees.
As the discussion shifted from the tactical to the strategic, Mr. Lockerbie offered a comparative analysis of member fees for various sports. His point was that a healthy level of internal funding was a factor whenever external funding bodies were approached. He said that USOC was potentially a funding source now that cricket was a recognized as an olympic sport.
Mr. Lockerbie said that cricket should study what the other sports are doing and create a masterplan for membership fees and benefits that was in line with other olympic sports in USA. As an example, he said that membership cost for badminton was in the range of $25 per player. For team sports, such as soccer, the fee was much higher.
In response to Mr. Renganathan's suggestion that any plan to imitate other sports' member fee structure should be carefully studied and migration should be carefully thought out, Mr. Lockerbie said that he was not advocating for an immediate change to a radically different model but was expressing his views in favor of an effective long-range plan.
When presented in this manner by the Treasurer, the CEO, the President and others, there was broader support for the increase in the fees from those assembled despite the general dissatisfaction about lack of communication.
On this last point, the Treasurer noted that the regional representatives were informed of the increase and asked the leagues to be more demanding of their regional representatives and their directors. Mr. Dainty too acknowledged that there were weak links in communication, and that this was was one of the biggest challenges for USACA.
Speaking on the topic of commercial opportunities, Mr. Thickett said that Mr. Lockerbie would provide more details shortly, but said that as a member of the committee that was vetting and developing opportunities, it was his hope that USACA would soon have stable long-term cash flow which would allow it to thrive.
Even though Mr. Lockerbie and several other speakers hinted that the signing of a deal was imminent, there was no indication of what, with whom, or what kind of deal USACA was signing. One speaker said that a deal was in legal review and felt that USACA could potentially make an announcement within days. But on the details of the deal, his lips were sealed.
Mr. Thickett spent the last part of his presentation canvassing support for KPIs and benchmarking. "To improve ourselves, we have to measure where we are today as a nation and within each region," Mr. Thickett said.
As an example, he showed a slide which illustrated that New York Region had roughly 3.5 clubs per cricket ground (implying crowding) whereas Atlantic Region had the best ratio of all regions at just over 1 team per ground. He said this type of data could prove useful for each region in prioritizing where they spend their human and financial resources.
Talking about junior involvement, Mr. Thickett said USA as a whole was weaker when compared to other associate countries in regards to the ratio of number of juniors playing cricket to the number of seniors.
Likewise, when looking at the regions, he said that 2008 data showed NYR, South East and the West were leading in junior cricket initiatives. The remaining regions should act fast to improve their metric in this area in order to close the gap and correct the imbalance, Mr. Thickett noted. Otherwise, he cautioned, it would prove harder for the national team to be representative of the country!
Mr. Dainty said that other associates were particularly focused on the number of local-born players in the national team - an area that received 3% weightage in ICC’s grants. He brought up the fact that none of the senior US players were actually US-born.
Manaf Mohammed said that all but three members of the U-19 team were US-born and that was an encouraging sign. However, it is imperative that these young U-19 cricketers continue on to the senior team, he noted.
Following that observation, once again, the discussion gravitated towards how seriously the regions were taking these kinds of metrics and benchmarking measures. As an independent observer, I sensed some dissonance within the regions. It was a fact that some regions had not been diligent in submitting all of the information that was requested. In hind sight, some members of the board noted, not submitting complete information may have resulted in USACA losing out on an additional $100K in ICC funding.
In this context, it is equally important for USACA to do more to build bridges and invite all the non-affiliate leagues and clubs into USACA fold. There are entire cities and leagues missing from USACA’s list of member leagues. This leads me to believe that several of these metrics could benefit from the inclusion of non-affiliate leagues. In fact, the non-affiliated leagues in Philadelphia and NY/NJ alone could lead to a substantial increase in each of the metrics.
2009 and 2010 ICC Capital & Development Grant Scorecard Factors
Playing standard (senior men’s International ranking) - 40% importance
Senior playing numbers (men’s & women’s competition teams) - 15%
Junior playing numbers (teams) - 10%
Cricket grounds (4% turf, 4% permanent, 2% total) - 10%
Junior involvement participants - 6%
Coaches (3% qualified/education courses, 3% active) - 6%
Umpires (2% qualified/education courses, 2% active) - 4%
Employees (2 part-time = 1 full-time) - 3%
Junior/local development over time (i.e. number of senior playing team through national junior programs/competition or lived 75%
of lifetime in-country) - 3%
Non-ICC income generated - 3%
Total - 100%
[Next in DreamCricket.com's coverage of the AGM - USACA President’s Report that accompanied his address, the Regional Reports and the CEO’s presentation.]