USA constitution under the spotlight September 25, 2006

The road to nowhere ... or a new direction?

Deb K Das wonders whether the long-awaited constitutional reforms will really lead to a reform of US cricket, or end up as another road to nowhere ...

The long-awaited draft Constitution of the USA Cricket Association (USACA), under preparation for the past six months under cloak-and-dagger secrecy, is finally available on the USACA website for all to see. It remains to be seen whether it will be approved by USACA's member clubs - and if it is, whether it will really lead to a reform of US cricket, or end up as another road to nowhere.

Critics have already weighed in on the document's inconsistencies, some of which range from the absurd to the trivial. The big change is the addition of a National Election Committee, which is to have authority over the election of the BOD, regional directors, and the top three executive officers. Such an independent authority was an express requirement of the ICC, and appears to have been met by the draft.

Then there are inconsistencies, contradictions and "just plain foolishness" according to one vocal critic. For example, member clubs can be expelled for not meeting their "financial obligations" to the USACA, yet no club can resign without fullfilling these financial obligations! Again, Lifetime memberships can be revoked bya two-thirds vote ... how do you revoke a lifetime membership? Lifetime and Honorary members are also required to be at all annual meetings, even though they have no vote and could be living halfway around the world. The point of this requirement is lost on the reader, and its relevance is also questionable.

Also, there are no clearly established guidelines on how the National Election Committee is to be selected, how future vacancies will be filled, and how conflicts of interest are to be avoided. Presumably, the ICC would have to approve, and its Americas office would be responsible to see that its requirements are met. But this is hardly a comforting thought, given ICC's track record on such matters.

What is especially crucial, however, is what the draft constitution does not say. Here is one of its most glaring omissions. When the Constitution Review Committee was first formed, a group of US cricketers made a formal proposal to John Wainwright, then chairman of the Committee, to include certain items in the new constitution as by-laws. These items were as follows: (1) Set goals requiring every member league to increase the percentage of American-born cricketers without any cultural background in cricket by five percent each year, to comprise 25% in five years; (2) Member leagues failing to meet these quotas were to be denied the right to vote, to participate in regional or national teams, or enjoy any privileges of USACA membership; (3) Similar quotes were to be applied to junior cricket, with the same penalties; (4) All money received from ICC was to be set aside either for programs and services directed towards American-born citizens, or on ICC requirements for maintaining Associate Membership. In particular, no ICC funds were to be spent on any other activities than those specified herein.

The point of all these proposals was that if US cricket was to become part of the American sports landscape, mainstream America had to be somehow incorporated into its development plans. Without such carrot-and-stick rewards and penalties, it was highly unlikely that this would ever happen. Indeed, Gary Hopkins, who had performed a similar feat of legerdemain with the US Major Soccer League, was hired by ICC to oversee Project USA with just such a goal in mind. When Project USA was shut down by ICC, a promising line of development was left stillborn, and with it went the hopes of most US cricketers for a promising future.

The question now is, whether the USACA and its Constitution Review Committee will re-adopt these proposals as part of its by-laws, and again set US cricket on the promising path that was abandoned three years ago. A great deal is riding on the answer.

Deb K Das is Cricinfo's correspondent in the USA