The governance process to rebuild USA cricket in the wake of the USA Cricket Association's expulsion in June takes another step forward this week as ICC Americas staff begins a series of town hall forum meetings around the country. The overarching aim is to create a governance structure under a new constitution to achieve the ICC's repeatedly stated goal of "unifying the cricket community" according to the ICC's USA project manager Eric Parthen.
"Leading into the expulsion, obviously we continued to try and work with USACA and get them to reform with the new constitution," Parthen told ESPNcricinfo in a recent interview ahead of the first town hall meetings to take place this week in New York City and Washington, DC. "That didn't happen. So at the ICC annual conference we had a unanimous board decision and a unanimous full council decision to expel USACA. In the wake of that, we've done exactly what we said we were going to do and continue to focus on developing a national governing body that can unify the cricket community.
"We will ultimately use the constitution that was created by the sustainable foundation group, potentially make a few tweaks to incorporate in the state of Colorado instead of the state of New York, but by all intents and purposes it will be the same document that was created by the cricket community and was proposed to USACA. We'll use that document to ultimately elect a new board of directors that will then assume authority and hopefully by June of 2018 be before the ICC as a national governing body or federation for the United States in the sport of cricket."
Parthen says that despite USACA's unwillingness to adopt the revised constitution put forward to them by the ICC's Sustainable Foundation Advisory Group, the final straw preceding USACA's expulsion as an ICC Associate Member, he is making it clear that current or former members of USACA are more than welcome to throw their hat in the ring to be a part of the new federation. That includes longtime USACA president Gladstone Dainty, a controversial figure whom many current and past administrators blame for the stymying the growth of cricket in the country.
"This has never been about one individual," Parthen said when asked about whether Dainty and other USACA executives would be welcome to run for office given the contentious nature of USACA's expulsion. "This process has been about unifying the community. So whether it is Gladstone or somebody else from ACF, we're going to put trust in a unified body to make good decisions for the directors that will ultimately be elected.
"When we look at the board makeup, there's going to be two athletes elected both male and female that will serve as a check and balance, there will be three independent directors that will serve as a check and balance. There will be some individuals elected by clubs and leagues and then there will be individual elected seats by the full membership. So we believe there's enough checks and balances there to get the right people elected. If anyone is elected, I'd hope that they went through a great process that showed they have the majority of people interested in seeing them lead this organisation."
One of the main areas of focus for Parthen's office in Colorado Springs is establishing a database to collect information about the wider cricket community. The purpose is to establish better communication channels but also to make sure as many constituents as possible are identified and registered to be able to take part in elections which are anticipated to be held in early 2018.
"We want to set up a governing body that's a governing body for all forms of the sport: softball cricket, hardball cricket, disabled cricket, all forms of cricket we think the national federation should ultimately govern," Parthen said. "That's why we're focused on creating a database that can manage all of those pieces and ultimately communicate with all of those pieces.
"Clubs, coaches, athletes, umpires, administrators, fans, we want them all to be a part of this new national federation, have a voice in the new national federation and ultimately be a part of it. So that database needs to be able to support all aspects of it. Once the database is created, we'll shoot to have membership open in November of 2017 and ultimately elections starting in January 2018 with hopefully a finishing point of April 2018 where we have a new board of directors and a new national federation to govern the sport of cricket in the United States."
One of the ironic aspects of USACA's suspension and expulsion has been that instead of having their ICC funding stopped - as was the case in previous suspensions and what occurs when most countries are suspended - their ICC funding mushroomed. USACA had been getting approximately $300,000 annually from the ICC prior to suspension but the caretaker administration in the USA has been operating on an annual budget between $2 and $2.5 million, equivalent to Ireland and Afghanistan before their elevation to Full Membership.
When the new national governing body is put in place, the funding assistance from the ICC is expected to revert to pre-suspension levels. However, Parthen is optimistic that the new governing body will be able to maintain if not exceed those funding levels independent of help from the ICC.
"The $2-2.5 million, we think that's a drop in the bucket compared to what this country potentially could produce," Parthen said. "The ICC hasn't commercialised any aspect of this sport. A typical national federation in any other sport - USA Swimming, USA Basketball, Cricket Australia, you name it - are commercialising parts of the game and we have not done that.
"We are very bullish and we hope the new national federation will be very bullish on the opportunities that exist for growing the amount of revenue that we can ultimately support cricket in the United States with. We hope that far dwarfs the $2-2.5 million that the ICC has supported this country with and I'd argue that in the time that I've been here, I certainly see those potential opportunities and I'd be disappointed if we only function on a $2.5 million budget in this sport moving forward."
Parthen was also in Florida during CPL weekend last month where staff and volunteers surveyed fans in person and online to seek out opinions on designing a logo for the new national federation. A new logo is something he feels is an important symbolic step in rehabilitating the image of USA cricket as they chart a new path with the formation of a fresh national governing body.
"Specifically with the logo, we want it to represent the United States," Parthen said. "This is a United States federation. So the imagery will be red, white and blue, USA, speak to cricket, hopefully speak to our identity as a sport with over 300 years of history in the United States but also do so in a way that is more progressive, more forward-thinking, looking forward, more exciting, a new future and a new era for cricket.
"One thing that came out in our surveys is that we need to be thoughtful of both our past and our present. We're very optimistic and bullish on what the future of USA cricket can be but we also need to keep in mind what our past is and the history that we have in the United States."