Rival governing body gains momentum
The breakaway American Cricket Foundation has made public a draft constitution for review on its web site as it continues its gradual growth towards mounting a challenge against the USA Cricket Association to become the officially recognised governing body for cricket in America by the ICC.
The proposed constitution includes key differences from USACA's method of governance such as term limits and the offer of membership to individual players and clubs separate from leagues.
"It has long been our goal to provide US Cricket with a selfless platform that will unite all cricket constituencies through a universal appeal that can accelerate US cricket development," Gangaram Singh, coordinator of the ACF constitution committee, said in an ACF press release.
The proposed term limits would cap any ACF board member's service at a maximum of eight consecutive years. Term limits were suggested as an amendment to the USACA Constitution by several candidates ahead of the USACA general election in April. USACA President Gladstone Dainty, who won re-election in April, has been in that role since 2003. In Dainty's time as USACA president, USACA has twice been suspended by the ICC during periods marked by internal struggles and poor governance.
The offer to individual players and clubs of membership, and potentially voting privileges with it, would be a major shift from the USACA administration. Currently, USACA voting rights are offered to member leagues only, which was a source of controversy at the April elections when 32 out of the 47 member leagues were disenfranchised. As a result, it only took a majority of eight votes to decide the winner for each race.
ACF on the other hand seems determined to offer membership to as many constituents as possible as part of its mission of inclusion. While member leagues would vote for six of the 11 director positions on the ACF board of directors, the proposed constitution states that all individual players and clubs would be eligible to vote for other at-large director positions on the board so that every cricketer would have a legitimate say in electing their representatives. The initial proposal is for five player votes to be equivalent to one member club vote in any election for the at-large directors.
Separate from the proposed ACF board of directors, the constitution also calls for the formation of an advisory and judicial committee comprised mainly of player representatives. The lack of any player representation in USACA committees has been a stumbling block preventing them from gaining recognition from the United States Olympic Committee. The ACF is understood to be aggressively pursuing USOC recognition which would do a great deal to legitimise their efforts.
While the immediate prospects of the ACF being recognized by the ICC are slim, gaining and maintaining USOC recognition could be valuable down the road for the ACF if Twenty20 cricket is eventually introduced into the Olympic program. Having USOC recognition could mean the ACF gets to select a US representative side for the Olympics and not USACA. It would be a solid bargaining chip to wave in front of the ICC in an attempt to usurp USACA's status as the ICC's officially recognized governing body.
If the majority of the 32 disenfranchised leagues from the USACA general election in April formally become members of ACF, it would also mean they would have a bigger membership base than USACA. It could allow them to pose an argument to the ICC that they are representative of a wider number of constituents in the USA than USACA. In a lawsuit filed by former USACA Executive Secretary Kenwyn Williams, court documents show an affidavit filed by Dainty in which he states that there are currently 12 member leagues in USACA.
If the ACF continues on the path of growth and engages in a struggle with USACA over ICC recognition, it could lead to another ICC suspension for US Cricket.
USA was locked out of international cricket in 2005 due to poor governance after the Council of League Presidents got into a legal battle with USACA over the 2005 USACA election results. At the time, USA was scheduled to participate in the ICC Intercontinental Cup first-class cricket tournament for Associates after having done so in 2004 but USA was removed from the 2005 edition during suspension and hasn't participated since.
In 2006, the entity known as Major League Cricket petitioned the ICC to become the recognised governing body of cricket in the USA to replace USACA. MLC's attempts at recognition were eventually rebuffed. USACA was suspended again in 2007 after failing to ratify a constitution. They were scheduled to participate in ICC World Cricket League Division Three that year, but were instead demoted to Division Five due to suspension. USA had qualified and played in the ICC Champions Trophy as recently as 2004 but they have struggled to climb back up the Associate ranks ever since they were readmitted into international cricket in 2008.
The ACF has its origins in the aftermath of the controversial USACA general elections in April 2012 in which 32 out of the 47 USACA member leagues were deemed ineligible by the incumbent USACA board ahead of the election following a USACA compliance review. In May, a group of league presidents from among the 32 disenfranchised leagues banded together to declare their intent to discontinue their membership in USACA and form a new rival organisation called Cricket America before changing their name to the American Cricket Federation.
In October, the ACF held their inaugural Twenty20 National Championship in Los Angeles which was won by the Southern California Cricket Association, who defeated the Cricket League of New Jersey in the final. The tournament featured 15 games across three days all played on turf wickets at Woodley Park. By comparison, USACA only managed to schedule a single national tournament match in 2012, a 50-over contest in Florida on November 11. Neither the ACF nor USACA have set any domestic tournament dates for 2013.
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey