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By Venu Palaparthi
American Cricket Federation (ACF), which announced in January the addition of the Arizona Cricket Association as its eleventh hard ball cricket league member, took another step today to assert itself as the credible governing body for cricket in the United States.
In a letter addressed to Tim Anderson, ICC Global Development Manager, ACF fired a salvo asking ICC to review 'the current governance situation in USA.' Jamie Harrison, ACF's CEO told DreamCricket.com that a letter of support from a former USACA league was attached to its request. Other former USACA leagues are ready to send their letters supporting ACF's request, Harrison said.
"ICC acknowledged the email and responded that they would review ACF's request," Harrison said.
"We had the opportunity to request such a review back in November, but we chose not to do it then, mainly in deference to the players who were making preparations to represent USA at the ICC WT20 Qualifier. We felt that it would have been a distraction."
Following USA's 15th place finish in that tournament, Harrison said that ACF once again sat down and considered its course of action. "USA has no significant international commitments for the foreseeable future. And we feel that this issue could be resolved in a short time," Harrison told DreamCricket.com.
While ACF's letter to ICC brings the USACA-ACF rivalry into sharp focus, this turn of events marks 'a deja vous moment' for many cricketers, who have witnessed several past attempts to take on USACA - USACA vs USCF, USACA vs Project USA, USACA vs CLP and USACA vs MLC.
USCF merged with USACA after ICC despatched Sir Julian Hunte to persuade the two organizations to negotiate. ICC's own Project USA was suspended in 2005, after the relationship between the ICC and USACA deteriorated. Legal actions by USACA scuttled the CLP around the middle of the last decade. ICC's capitulation to USACA in 2006 grounded the MLC.
Each time, it was players who ended up bearing the brunt of the resulting barbs. At the national level, ACF and USACA have so far not taken any overt exclusionary steps. But if history is a guide, it is at the regional level that the environment gets poisoned. Already, rumblings are being heard in two regions where coercive tactics have been used by USACA's regional administrators.
ACF adopted a policy statement just before the battle lines were drawn. “The American Cricket Federation, in placing the interests of its members first, and with its stated goal of supporting all cricket in the United States, will never preclude, discourage or penalize the participation in cricket activities of any league, club or individual based upon their respective affiliations,” the organization noted.
In the email that was sent to American cricketers today, ACF explained its position: "We did not take this action lightly, and we are mindful that this brief transition period may bring uncertainty to some. However, we are unshakable in our confidence that American cricket will emerge from this experience exponentially greater than it was before, having finally the leadership that will allow it to fulfill its potential as one of the world's truly great cricketing nations."
Even as the momentum was building in favor of ACF throughout 2013, ICC remained USACA's steadfast ally. An ICC representative, Jon Long, was part of the USACA Governance Review Committee and ICC's Tim Anderson joined USACA officials as they went on a road tour to pitch governance changes. On more than one occasion, ICC officials have made pronouncements that bolstered USACA's position that it was the cricket's national governing body. Following a trip to USA last summer, ICC President Alan Isaac said: “It’s been a pleasure to meet the national governing body for cricket in the US, USACA, in order to understand its plans and challenges, as well as a range of other stakeholders that we feel have an important role in the future development of cricket in the USA."
But even ICC must be wondering why the pace of progress is so excruciatingly slow and why members were not returning to USACA in droves. In November, USACA gave itself until later in 2014 to ratify constitutional changes. What's more, the licensing revenue from CHALLC that USACA hoped to pass along to its members has not materialized so far. USACA published its 2012 tax filing last week, which confirmed that USACA's deficit grew and membership plunged that year. It is a safe assumption that the deficit remained in the $3M range at the end of 2013 as well.
In its release, ACF focused on differentiating itself from USACA, noting that "it is our belief that we can do justice to America's [ICC] associate membership, whereas USACA has only wasted it."
"To accomplish this, we have now built a strong national cricket body with a model governance structure, proper financial controls, money in the bank and no debt, a growing number of strong member leagues, and an army of enthusiastic volunteers. Most importantly, ACF has the esteem and trust of cricket stakeholders across the country, where USACA has, over the years, earned only the bitterness and enmity of American cricket stakeholders," ACF noted.