December 28, 2006

USA

What has everyone got to hide?

Martin Williamson

There is widespread confusion in US cricket circles over the almost secret marketing deal reportedly agreed last October between the USA Cricket Association and a company called Centrex. The deal, which was flagged in outline to Cricinfo before it was finalised, has reportedly been signed and a payment made to the USACA, and yet it has proved almost impossible to find any information about what it involves and how much money has changed hands now and is expected to in the coming years.

What we have been told is that the agreement will mean a joint-venture company will run most aspects of the game and its promotion, with the USACA reaping a financial benefit. But a source close to the USACA said that a number of issues remain unresolved, although it is not expected that the ongoing dispute over the association’s constitution and elections will affect the deal.

Wild sums have been bandied around behind the scenes, with some claiming that the deal could net the USACA millions of dollars a year. While this appears to be an exaggeration, the sudden influx of cash could account for the association’s reluctance to make the arrangement public. The already ultra-secretive board of directors are unlikely to be happy about potential rivals becoming aware of a new income stream.

And what of Major League Cricket, the organisation which threatened to usurp the USACA and which seemed to be expanding rapidly into the void left by the shambolic organization of the association? Insiders report that if the Centrex deal goes through, it spells the end of MLC as much of its raison d’etre centres on doing what the USACA should be expected to do in any normal board.

And MLC has gone from sending out almost daily press releases to becoming almost as uncommunicative as the USACA. Its website has not been updated for seven months and, like the USACA itself, emails go unanswered.

While the next year could be exiting for the game in the States, the sad truth is that almost nobody knows. And the question that raises is, what have those who are supposed to represent the stakeholders got to hide?

If anyone has any more information, please send us feedback!

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by Texan on (January 24, 2007, 0:03 GMT)

Mr. Eastcoast Cricketer: I am from Texas area and I can only speak for Texas and Central West Region. Houston Cricket League is one of those Premier leagues run on democratically elected(not selected) Executive Committee for so many years. It started with one team in 1976 and now it is a 32 team League playing year round cricket. we have some growing pains but it's on a firm footing and run well by it's EC. As matter of fact it also supported other cities like Dallas-Fortworth and Austin to establish their leagues. So we are used to democratic process and we have taken few steps to get into grass root movement to spread the cricket in the area. Central West also has a very well organized Colorado Cricket League. It's just a matter that current constituion of USACA does not allow any benefits to any organized leagues around the country. I hope you in New York-DC area can do something about it. We are willing to support any democratically elected officials but at present the things are very messy. Only othe alternative is for all the leagues or may be the clubs not to be a part of USACA and go on our own for the love of the game. That approach is very drastic and it will hurt lot of young and upcoming cricketers. Unless ICC can do something about it. There is no clear answer and that's the only reason I am hoping that some senior pioneers from all around the country can come forwrd and do something without any strings attached. I am sure there are enough cricket loving folks who can do something. Well let us know what we can do for our next generation of criketers.

Posted by East Coast Cricketer on (January 23, 2007, 19:30 GMT)

What a polite bunch we all are - methinks we protest too much. Article after article wrings metaphorical hands and complains. There seems to be some pathetic, fervent hope that the current USA "representative bodies" (there's a dichotomy)can be negotiated with, or will change their ways. WAKE UP !

Is anyone inquiring HOW this parlous state of affairs came about? Lets look inward at the state of constitutional democracy in USA cricket. In my playing area (New York to Washington DC), I'm not aware of too many democratically organized clubs. A significant proportion are autocratic fiefdoms (which does not necessarily deny their passion). My immediate area has two local leagues, neither of which are democratically run - in fact they go to great lengths to avoid free votes. So much for the "representative" claims of potential League Presidents! Worse, and so sad, is the apathy, distrust and disinterest of constituent cricketers to make any change. Sure they have strong opinions, globally united as far as I can make out in outright rejection of any vestige of legitimacy of todays USA cricket "leaders". But ask them to get involved, persuade this silent majority to stand selflessly for league and regional office on democratic platforms to serve others? Are you kidding?

Small wonder therefore that an idiot minority bent on dreams of power and personal aggrandisement find it so easy to catapult to the "top" on the Big Lie of the democratic myth.

Until there is a true grass roots movement at a CLUB level that STARTS with a democratic mantra and subordinates itself to an upfront democratic process, there will never be unity or true progress in US cricket.

The irony? In this day and age of the internet and open communications, this has to be fairly simple to organize. Anybody else frustrated?

Posted by Texan on (January 19, 2007, 18:09 GMT)

It is very interesting to hear these comments. We need to get better information from our respective regional directors. Most of them are also silent on any of these issues. Yes it's not easy to trust all the executives and board members but there is still some hope that if the board, executives and CLP can work out a plan where all are willing to forget the past and move on forward. Sure it's too much to ask but with the help of some mediators and some regional seniors with respect from within their leagues things can move. It's high time that all of us look for some dedicated cricket pioneers who are willing to bring all the different factions together on one table and work out the differences. I know few of them from my past association with USACA board and executives and players. I urge all the cricket lovers and dedicated cricketers in every region of USA to organize your leagues and clubs to take deeper interest and come forward with the people within your region whom you can trust and ask them to take the lead in brokering a joint partnership with all the USACA bodies.

Regarding MLC, they have good plans and very ambitious goals and promised a to all the team who participated last year in the Florida National tournament. But none of the promises are kept and when the Champion team from Texas questioned them regarding the promised prize and other things, they said that's the responsibility of the sponsor (MLC's sponsor) and said that sponsor is not willing to fulfill the promises. They are not up to the par either and they should also explain their deals and be fair with the cricketers. Let us all hope something come out of these discussions.

Posted by Daintylee on (January 3, 2007, 18:17 GMT)

The USACA will always do business as they've done in the past - in secrecy. They do have "some" bargaining power now with Pawar running for ICC chief position and now USACA does have a vote - doesn't have equal weight as the permanent members.

Posted by Daintylee on (January 3, 2007, 18:16 GMT)

The USACA will always do business as they've done in the past - in secrecy. They do have "some" bargaining power now with Pawar running for ICC chief position and now USACA does have a vote - doesn't have equal weight as the permanent members.

Posted by bodyline on (January 3, 2007, 18:02 GMT)

Once again the USACA is a complete embarrassment to the USA. US Cricket will never go anywhere as long as this organization is in charge. They could have 100 million dollars and it would not make one bit of difference. It is a complete shame because the people who play cricket in the US are giving their all and keeping the game alive only to be kicked in the face at every turn. No one wants cricket to thrive in the US more than me (born & bred American) but I am a realist and USA cricket is synonymous with back office deals, secret agreements, and slight of hand. This is not the "spirit of the game" it is simply greed, graft and selfishness personified.

Posted by Firoz on (December 31, 2006, 15:37 GMT)

In fairness to MLC, It should be pointed out that MLC has never said that it was in the business of "running US cricket". From the beginning, its mission has been to "promote the DEVELOPMENT of US cricket as a MAINSTREAM sport in the USA". The details of its "global development plan" to achieve this goal has long been available on the MLC Web site, and so far it has made steady progress towards this main mission.

The idea that MLC would be able to "manage US cricket" was first proposed by others to the ICC, because it was clear that MLC, from the beginning of its existence, had already had met the five requirements of ICC Associate Membership (USACA has not met a single one of them in the last five years). ICC's careful response to the idea (it has given USACA just three more months to come up with a fully approved constitution) suggests that it is at least aware of the situation. For what that is worth.

MLC spokespersons make it clear that they are waiting to see what ICC will end up doing, if anything; meanwhile, they are keeping a strict silence on the issue, not wishing to muddy the waters any more with any ad hoc and ad lib comments. This is, of course, very frustrating to the US cricketing public, but the reasons for MLC's current reticence should be understood by all of us in my opinion.

Posted by Allen on (December 29, 2006, 17:11 GMT)

Isn’t it obvious? The shambles that runs the game has suddenly hit the jackpot and isn’t about to share the spoils with anyone. If they shout that they are rich then there is a danger that some people who ARE competent might want to run US cricket.

Posted by Concerned on (December 29, 2006, 14:29 GMT)

No secrets within the USACA? You are kidding, right? The whole board is about as open as North Korea. Nothing other than banal statements ever comes out of the USACA. There has never been a media release or website story about the end of Project USA, the USA being suspended from the ICC because of Dainty and his cohorts being such a shambles, or anything about the joke that are the elections and the constitution. Why the hell should anyone expect honesty or openness now?

And, Mr Hall, if you are the Media Liaison Manager, just what do you do? Tell us, when was the last time you issued a press release on anything other than regional tournaments.

“We are acutely aware of the public's interest in this venture, and will make every effort to ensure that you all are fully informed. I can assure you this process will be transparent.” Sorry, but that’s one of the biggest untruths I have read for quite some time. The US cricket fraternity might be frustrated, Mr Hall, but we are not stupid.

Posted by Orville Hall, Media Liaison Officer & Mgr. USACA National team. on (December 28, 2006, 17:26 GMT)

There are no such secrets being withheld with respect to the marketing deal which was reached between USACA and Centrex. We can appreciate the public's thirst for information related to this process, but one must also be cognizant of the respective rights of all the parties involved, so as to ensure that the deal is brokered in a professional and ethical manner. Because of on-going negotiations, it would be irresponsible to make any reference to monies paid or not paid to USACA at this time. As you can understand, this is a work-in-process and as such, copyright and trademark procurements are paramount to its consummation. Ever since the original agreement was announced, the parties have engaged in on-going talks, and as soon as all the necessary documents and signed and delivered, a formal announcement will be made. We are acutely aware of the public's interest in this venture, and will make every effort to ensure that you all are fully informed. I can assure you this process will be transparent, and I will make myself available for further questioning subsequent to any formal announcement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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