In the past few weeks, Cricinfo has been receiving many comments and queries on the USA Council of League Presidents (CLP), and its apparent failure to capitalize on the overwhelming mandate it received from USA Cricket Association (USACA) on June 4 to carry out a top-to-bottom reform of the organization. Here is our attempt to answer the question, with what information is available to us
The CLP has existed on paper for at least as long as the USACA constitution. Ironically, it owes its existence to a political battle within the USACA. The drafters of the original constitution had wanted to add a member to the board of directors to represent the unaffiliated cricket clubs who were not members of any leagues, in order to make the USACA fully representative of US cricket. This was strongly opposed by the established leagues, which instead voted that the extra seat should represent them instead.
For good measure, the USACA constitution was also amended to require US leagues to have a minimum of eight member-clubs in order to qualify as a recognized league. Taken together, these changes deprived many independent cricket clubs in the USA - estimated to be between 50 to 100 - of any voice in US cricket affairs, and consolidated power in the hands of the US cricket leagues.
By all accounts, the CLP did not do anything of consequence for the past decade, except vote for a representative to sit on the USACA board every two years. In their turn, the CLP representatives seem to have done very little for the US cricket leagues other than to pass through paperwork that emanated from the USACA executive.
Things changed after the 2005 USACA elections when, for perhaps the first time in its history, the CLP was actually called to a meeting in Dallas. Gladstone Dainty, president of the USACA, denounced the meeting as illegal. But a substantial majority of USACA member leagues attended anyway, and voted to re-instate Veman Reddy as CLP chairman (he had secured the most votes in the USACA elections but had been disqualified on a technicality). They also passed a series of resolutions and called for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the USACA in New York on June 4.
The June 4 EGM was the largest-ever meeting of USACA member clubs and appeared to be a ringing endorsement for radical reform of USACA governance. But, behind the scenes, the CLP was already beginning to run into trouble. Its lawyers suggested that the specific resolutions might not hold up under court challenge, since it could not be proved that every single member club had received written notification for the EGM containing the texts of the proposed resolutions. So the resolutions were shelved, and general resolutions on reforming USACA and asking for new elections were adopted instead.
The CLP also appointed a seven-member interim committee to run its affairs. In retrospect, this seems to have been a strategic mistake. The USACA's attorneys immediately pounced on the list, and added them to the dissidents they had already been suing. They justified their action by saying that the CLP was illegally using USACA's logo and name on its own web site -- a curious argument, since CLP is a part of USACA under its constitution. The dissidents' attorney, who now also became the CLP's by default, advised that no further use be made of the CLP website until all legal issues were resolved. The interim council, in its own view, was dead in the water within hours of coming into existence.
The CLP's posture did not sit well with its critics, who accused it of everything from betrayal of its original mandate to knuckling under to legal broadsides. The truth, it now appears, was more complicated. First, there were differences within the interim council, which had been convened hastily and on an ad hoc basis -- there were those who wanted to move ahead, and others who wanted to wait to see how the legal issues would play out.
Secondly, there were some who wanted to negotiate with Dainty, and others who were adamantly opposed to such moves; the USACA took advantage of these differences, offering incentives to some while negotiating with the others.
Thirdly, resentment developed between the CLP and the USACA dissidents who had spearheaded the opposition to Dainty's USACA, but who now saw themselves being ostracized as part of the old regime who had to be excluded from any future role in USACA.
And finally, whatever possibilities might have existed for independent action on the part of CLP were crushed by their own attorney, who warned of dire consequences if they did anything to give Dainty's attorneys another excuse for legal action. The result was that the CLP ended up playing a zero-sum game with themselves, with nothing to show for their efforts.
There are those who equate CLP with USACA, and claim there is little to choose between the two. This would not be an accurate comparison. The USACA, as presently run by Dainty, appears to be an autocratic organization, with decisions made at the top. The CLP, on the other hand, is ultra-democratic, with too may contending opinions and no mechanism or resolving them into action. Neither, it seems, is a good model for US cricket as they stand Each would have to undergo drastic revision before it can compete for attention in US cricket.
Deb K Das is Cricinfo's correspondent in the USA