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USACA South East Region removed Petal Samuels from the position of the region's women's coordinator on June 3rd. The letter, signed by Muhammad Yousaf, Secretary of USACA South East Region, noted that a majority of region's board of directors had voted in favor of recalling Petal as the women's coordinator.
The region's action came just three days after Samuels (pictured right), a hard working mother of three, organized a highly successful cricket tournament in Georgia. The third annual Atlanta Women's T20 tournament organized by Georgia Women Cricket Association (GWCA) saw the participation of three teams from USA and an invitational side from Cayman Islands. The tournament was appreciated by participants and spectators alike.
However, Samuels' effort received USACA's flack and she was suspended on April 30th for partnering with a "body outside of the USACA structure." The suspension came just days after the tournament received USACA's sanction. Despite Samuels' suspension, the tournament retained its USACA-sanctioned status and Samuels continued to work for the success of the tournament.
Based on the sanction, the WICB also allowed the participation of Stafanie Taylor, ICC 2012 ODI Women's Cricketer of the Year, as its Women's Cricket Ambassador. In a letter addressed to the WICB on June 7th, Samuels wrote: "Your approval of Ms. Taylor's appearance was significant in the overall success of the tournament." Samuels noted that "Stafanie['s] participation at the tournament, offered other women cricketers a chance to see the outstanding West Indian athlete up close."
Following the event, Samuels received a letter notifying her of her removal on June 3, 2013. In the letter, the USACA-SER Secretary noted that the decision to recall Samuels was made at a special meeting on May 29, 2013. The Secretary thanked her for her services.
Reacting to her removal, Samuels said, "I have worked for the betterment of cricket before my involvement with USACA. While I am disappointed that the region has taken such an action, my focus on women's cricket will remain unaffacted."
What appears to have irked the regional administration is the fact that GWCA accepted sponsorship support from the American Cricket Federation (ACF). USACA, as noted previously, viewed ACF as an organization that was a "body outside of the USACA structure." ACF was the title sponsor and, according to sources, contributed a significant four-figure sponsorship to the event. With its suspension, USACA fired a salvo effectively signaling that ACF was non-grata, an unusually aggressive stance for USACA.
In its sponsorship announcement, ACF stated that its mission was to inspire Americans to play and to excel at cricket regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or age. ACF expressed its intent to fill a much needed financial void by sponsoring a grassroots initiative.
"There is no better way to achieve our mission than to support existing grassroots initiatives," Durga Das, the organization's Women's Coordinator, was quoted as saying.
In a letter to the South East Region dated May 4, 2013, USACA CEO Darren Beazley wrote: "I am pleased that the ACF have seen fit to fund a USACA Sanctioned Tournament and on the face of it, one could have been forgiven for thinking that theorganization was genuinely attempting to work with the Peak Body cricket in the USA for the betterment of Women’s Cricket."
However, Beazley took exception to "an individual from the ACF directing [Samuels'] actions in the public domain."
The action that was referred to by Beazley was a letter that former USACA Secretary John Aaron wrote to Petal Samuels. In the letter, Aaron provided Samuels with suggestions on how to respond to the letter of suspension. Aaron also included a strongly worded draft response.
Beazley noted that the assistance provided by this individual highlighted "the unsavoryside of the sport that for so long has held cricket back in the US" and called it an example of "just how far cricket in this country has to go to move from petty politics to professional sports administration."
Responding to the criticism, Aaron asserted that he was asked by Samuels for help in drafting a response to the letter of suspension that was sent to her on April 30th. Aaron also noted that Samuels reached out to him, not the ACF, and that he provided help in his individual capacity. Aaron also noted that the suggested response made no reference to ACF and it was unfortunate that the USACA CEO saw it that way.
Aaron noted that he has been a staunch supporter of GWCA's and Petal Samuels' efforts over the years and had assisted with communications for GWCA tournaments in the past. "I always did this in my individual capacity, even when I was USACA secretary," Aaron emphasized.
When asked about the USACA position regarding ACF sponsorship, Aaron said he was troubled by the position taken by USACA's South East Region. "It was not a quid pro quo arrangement. My recollection is that ACF simply responded to an appeal for sponsors by GWCA, and in keeping with its established guiding principles, offered financial support to the tournament, something any cricket loving body would have done."