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By Venu Palaparthi
USACA Secretary, Mascelles Bailey, told DreamCricket.com that all leagues that pay their 2014 membership dues will be granted voting eligibility ahead of a crucial vote on a new constitution.
This marks a major shift in stance for USACA. According to its current constitution, only full members in good standing are eligible to vote. USACA has not published a list of good standing leagues in recent times. The most authentic information dates back to December of 2012 when, in an affidavit, USACA indicated that it had twelve USACA leagues in good standing. In fact, several of the leagues listed on USACA's website are actually fully paid members of ACF.
In a bid to boost its membership, USACA announced additional incentives and lowered its fees. The organization also announced that all leagues, associations and academies that have paid in full for all their constituent teams for 2012 and 2013 would be granted membership in good standing.
In a subsequent press release dated March 29, 2014, USACA noted that it would also grant 'full membership' to certain leagues that had paid their 2013 dues on a 'case by case' basis at the April board meeting in Florida.
When DreamCricket.com reached out to Mascelles Bailey on Saturday to find out whether USACA had approved additional leagues at the board meeting held on April 26 and 27, Mr. Bailey said that USACA board had not approved any new leagues. Instead, Mr. Bailey said, the USACA board had decided to bestow voting eligibility on any league, academy or association with a minimum of 8 teams or clubs as long as the 2014 fees are paid ahead of the May 31st.
Mr. Bailey hoped that this new stance would bring all the leagues back into the fold ahead of the anticipated June vote on the constitution. When asked whether any of the other compliance criteria would also be applied, Mr. Bailey said that those would no longer be applicable.
Acknowledging that this was a 180-degree shift from USACA's stance prior to the last election, Mr. Bailey said, "Leagues should forget what has transpired in the past. This as a new dawn."
According to Mr. Bailey, the Governance Implementation Committee completed its work and made its recommendations. It was also recommended at the board meeting that USACA should accept all leagues that apply for membership for 2014 as members in good standing as long as the leagues have a minimum of eight teams and have paid their 2014 membership dues in full.
"As we move forward, new standards and a new constitution are coming up. Nothing should be static," Mr. Bailey added.
On the face of it, this is a progressive decision and will be seen that way by those that are unfamiliar with ground realities. The ICC and USACA's newest partner, WICB, will surely think that USACA has transformed. It is also a welcome news for a handful of leagues that have paid their dues over the years, without representation.
But for a vast majority of leagues that opted not to rejoin the organization in the aftermath of the 2012 election controversy, this new announcement will confuse and confound.
With May 31st just three weeks away, there is simply not enough time for these leagues to fully assess the repercussions of the latest policy change. Some two weeks after the decision was made at the April board meeting, USACA has yet to communicate this change of stance to the prospecitve leagues. Precious time has been lost already.
League membership decisions are non-trivial, especially for leagues with a larger number of clubs because membership dues are proportionately higher. These leagues are required to consult their constituent clubs before important decisions are made. Many leagues have recently held their AGMs and are preoccupied with the summer season. The latest USACA decision is also unlikely to persuade the seventeen leagues that have already paid their dues to ACF for 2014.
Under these circumstances, the latest announcement and the accompanying May 31st deadline will certainly not have any immediate impact. I have not seen the new constitution, and this is certainly not a comment on USACA's intentions. I just want to highlight the practical limitations that non-member leagues are faced with.
The new constitution will therefore be ratified by those leagues that have already been members of USACA. A good number of these leagues are in near total alignment with USACA, which is not a good recipe for meaningful discussion. But there is simply not enough time to fix this issue.
For meaningful change, we can only hope that (a) the ICC asks USACA and ACF work together in the interest of the game and (b) the new constitution is truly a forward looking document and not a vindictive one i.e. it must guarantee that current USACA members, current ACF members, and those leagues that are currently independent of either organization, are all treated fairly, and it must make them partners in the future of USA cricket. If only current USACA members are allowed to vote in any elections held under the new constitution, I am afraid we will not see the present fractures heal any time soon.