Now, you can get all the USA Cricket updates via Facebook. Also follow us on Twitter via @dreamcricket
By Venu Palaparthi
The ICC Annual Conference in Melbourne from 22-28 June gives the international governing body an opportunity to review the USA cricket situation and consider ACF's strong claim as a rival governing body.
ICC has probably read recent news reports in mainstream media and elsewhere about USA cricket. Reports that don't exactly paint a picture of tranquility and good health. The stories have a familiar refrain - resignations, recriminations and rescindments.
On one hand, the ICC has probably been provided assurances by USACA that all is well - that governance was being reviewed, that membership was expanding, that it had a new supporter in WICB, that it was back to conducting national tournaments after a three year hiatus, that it had replaced the vacant board member and committee positions with extremely capable administrators, and that it was seeking a new CEO as part of a 'leadership change.'
On the other hand, ACF has probably portrayed itself as a viable alternative to USACA owing to a robust constitution, a thoughtful tournament calendar, greater engagement with its members, overall alignment and harmony among its membership and a picture of sound financial health.
ICC has the unenviable job of separating fact from fiction, but this time around, the proof is starting right at it.
- Sample the issue of membership. USACA continues to claim that it has 45 member leagues and represents "over 90% across United States." However, USACA continues to be unresponsive to repeated requests for lists of full member leagues to back that claim.
USACA's hazy membership-math has historically been somewhat like this - "We will count you when it suits us. And we will dump you when it comes time to vote."
A quick fact-check by ICC will reveal that the ACF has a verifiable membership of 17 hard ball leagues, leagues that had already submitted letters to the ICC in support of the ACF. In fact, following USACA's confusing 45-member league claim on June 5th, a majority of these 17 ACF leagues reconfirmed that their sole association was with the ACF.
- On the issue of leadership and management, ICC needs to look at the events that led to the change of venue from Indianapolis to Broward County for the forthcoming men's national championship.
Terminating its hosting agreement, the City of Indianapolis blamed USACA's lack of communication since Darren Beazley's departure. USACA, in its defense, called it a failing of the host city. The City of Indianapolis had terminated the agreement "for reasons beyond what is being widely claimed by the City in the press," USACA noted.
This issue merits a fact-check by the ICC, not in the least because Alan Isaac, the ICC President, personally met with the Indianapolis administration and was enthused by the prospects of having a men's tournament in Indianapolis.
Reflecting on his visit to city in October, Mr. Isaac said: “Indianapolis is a major US sports hub, with the Indy 500 (motorsport), Indianapolis Colts (NFL), Indiana Pacers (NBA) and the National Collegiate Athlete Association (NCAA) all based in the city. Therefore, for cricket to have been embraced alongside such mainstream American sporting institutions gives us great confidence that our sport has a real future in the USA.”
Already, we know that the ICC was not amused about being drawn into the crossfire by USACA. "The ICC, the world governing body for cricket had also announced in the preceding week that it would not grant support funding for an additional national stadium in Indianapolis as the city was not prepared to commit rights and involvement in the sport over a long enough period to justify the multi-million dollar grant application," USACA noted in a written statement.
The ICC felt compelled to clarify via a press release that it was USACA's responsibility to secure a long term control and rights of use for the grounds in question.
- If ICC thinks USACA's governance is on the mend, the resignation of Brian Walters from the USACA board should give it reason to think again. In an article that appeared this week, Mr. Walters told ESPNCricinfo that USACA was an "amateur operation and they appear to want to keep it that way." He should know, because he was USACA's head of the Governance Review Committee.
- Not to forget the inconvenient fact that USACA is $3 Million in the hole. Of course, USACA continues to claim on its website that it has a 'robust international solution' in the CHALLC, 'which can help transform governance of USACA to more predictable management with larger cash flows for all the stakeholders.' Here, the ICC needs to conduct more than just a fact-check. This commercial arrangement needs a pulse-check. The agreement with CHALLC was signed in 2010 and we have seen very few signs of life.
At the conclusion of his USA trip last summer, Mr Isaac said: “The development of emerging markets is a major focus of the ICC as we strive to achieve our vision of cricket becoming a bigger, better global game. The United States is a key territory in this regard, and we believe the potential for future expansion is exciting.
“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,” Mr. Isaac said in May 2013.
Mr. Isaac should verify whether USACA has done enough to implement those plans in the twelve months that followed. He should ask his staff to stop believing propaganda and sound bites.
USACA's track record tells us that the leadership has very little motivation to transform the organization from within. Several of the folks who are aligned with USACA see very little that needs fixing. Anyone that disagrees or expresses dissent is destructive, misguided (even racist), and out to destroy the very fabric of American cricket.
Some, including the former USACA board member, Mr. Walters, think that if USACA implements reforms, that would give sufficient reason for leagues to forget bygones and return to USACA. Therein lies a conundrum. These leagues are unlikely to come back to USACA unless there is a leadership change. We all know that any election held without the involvement of all the leagues will not produce a leadership change. For any meaningful and transformative change, all leagues, and that includes ACF leagues, must be engaged in the process before USACA undertakes constitutional reforms and conducts a new election, not after.
The ICC should note that many of the leagues that have gravitated towards ACF did so because (a) these leagues were disqualified by USACA and (b) because ACF has demonstrated more energy and willingness to embrace newer ideas, and generally with greater application. Despite the perception that it is confrontational, the real work of ACF is happening on the ground where its members are generally appreciative of the services it is providing. Services that USACA has repeatedly failed to provide over the last decade.
The ICC should also know that several leagues remain members of USACA only because ICC recognizes it as the national governing body, leaving them with no choice in the matter.
The ICC should make its funding contingent on concrete timebound efforts in USA towards transforming governance and uniting cricket. As part of this plan, USACA and ACF should be asked to sit together and sort out their differences. The ICC should set a clear expectation that it wishes to see a single national governing body emerge from this process.
For best results, the ICC should be directly and actively involved in this process.