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The revelation that the USA Cricket Association had finally put forward a new constitution to its stakeholders was, on the face of it, a rare piece of good news in the murky world of domestic US cricket. But after a closer look, the news might not be as good as it seemed.
Within hours of the announcement there were signs of unrest. The most obvious issue was that the whole deal was presented as one that only needed rubber stamping rather than consideration. After months of silence and rumour, stakeholders were given three weeks to digest the proposals, circulate and discuss them, and vote. While that may be time enough, there was a feeling of indecent haste about the whole process.
And then there was the issue of the regions, and more specifically the clubs within those regions. A close examination shows that there is a considerable imbalance between the way the regions are divided. More worryingly, some regions appear to have grown at a phenomenal rate.
One regional president made his views clear. “There are a number of so called clubs that are nothing but bogus clubs,” he told Cricinfo. “I challenge this administration to conduct a through independent audit of all clubs in all regions to see if they really play cricket or if certain individuals chose to pay $30 per club time 8 per League (i.e. $240 per year) to ensure they have enough leagues and enough clubs to vote.”
In other words, are all the clubs recognised by the USACA genuine?
A quick examination of the numbers of affiliated clubs in each region throws up some remarkable success stories. In the Atlantic region, in 2004 there were 69 clubs – now there are 133. It’s the same story elsewhere. North East region has grown from 16 to 40 clubs; Central East from 51 to 127. This may represent a tremendous success story for the USACA in that it has expanded the game.
Cynics claim it is little more than an exercise in manipulation. Each of the regions will elect a representative to the USACA board, so gain control of the regions and you effectively run the USACA. The new clubs may well decide whether the current regime is allowed to carry on or not.
“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don't,” a senior official said. “If you oppose the constitution then you are hampering progress; if you are in favour of the constitution you are keeping the incumbent in power.”
The most recent elections were shrouded in controversy. It seems that these will be no different. The veneer of democracy will keep the ICC happy and will satisfy the various external companies rumoured to be about to climb into bed with the USACA. It will also ensure that the existing bosses remain in place.
Unless leopards can change their spots, that is likely to mean a continuation of a policy of running US cricket in virtual secrecy, with no information made available to stakeholders or the media.
Like elections in the old Soviet Union, they claim to be democratic and open when in reality they are quite the opposite. The candidates offer themselves for a re-election that is inevitable and as soon as the poll is counted, they wave, head back behind the curtain and carry on as before.
Perhaps we are wrong and this is a brave new world. We have asked senior USACA officials to comment, as we have repeatedly done over the last two years. Stay tuned to see if they reply. Stay tuned, that is, but don’t hold your breath.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and AfricaFeeds: Martin Williamson
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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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.