USA news September 9, 2013

ACF's Harrison wants to 'reset' US cricket

Jamie Harrison, president of the US Youth Cricket Association (USYCA) and newly-appointed chief executive of the American Cricket Federation (ACF), says the time has come to "press the reset button on 50 years of failure" in US cricket. The USA Cricket Association (USACA) has been the ICC-recognised national governing body in America since 1965, but Harrison says he's focused on forging a new path at the rival governing body ACF with the aim to satisfy stakeholders from around the country who have become disenchanted with the way cricket has been administered historically.

"I want to talk to clubs and say, 'What can we do to help you achieve your goals to be better at what you do?' I think the main thing the ACF is, is a support, a buttress, a foundation upon which great things can be built," Harrison said in an interview with ESPNcricinfo. "We're not 'the peak body' that pushes everyone underneath of us and demands to be upheld. It's the flip. We're upholding everything else. We're upholding everyone else. We're making everyone else better. That's job one."

Harrison's appointment as ACF's first chief executive is just the latest event in a remarkable rise over the last five years, from cricket obscurity to administrative heavyweight. Harrison, a 49-year-old from Maryland, first discovered cricket in 2008 when he led his high school history class students on a field trip to U.S. Civil War sites in Richmond, Virginia where they were invited to participate in a historical cricket reenactment. With student interest piqued, a cricket club was formed at the school and Harrison volunteered to be its moderator.

He then went on to form the Maryland Youth Cricket Association and co-founded the US Youth Cricket Association. Along the way, he has facilitated the distribution of more than 1500 start-up cricket sets to schools, organised ICC coaching courses so that teachers could be more knowledgeable when introducing the sport to kids in physical education classes and won a 2010 ICC Development Programme Award for Best Junior Participation Initiative in the Americas Region. One of his main goals with ACF is to carry over a proactive approach from his previous endeavours that have generated positive results.

"We're going to get stuff done," Harrison said. "One thing that I'm determined about is there's not going to be any unnecessary delays. There's not going to be any committees and reports and evaluations. We're going to make things happen. This isn't brain surgery. It's going to be a high level of activity. We're going to come up with plans and then we're going to act on them and things are going to happen. I can't promise that it'll happen in a week or a month or even a year, but I am bound and determined that everything is going to change.

"I love it when people tell me, 'It's a lost cause. You can't make cricket happen in America. There are too many factions. Americans will never take to cricket.' All the crap that people have been telling me for years that could never be done that I've watched happening [with USYCA]. So I'm fired up by the chance to demonstrate that it can be done."

Harrison will now be working in direct competition with USACA chief executive Darren Beazley but the two men were very close to establishing a partnership with each other as recently as May. Harrison had worked to keep USYCA as apolitical as possible in its first few years of existence but at the 2013 USYCA AGM in Philadelphia, board members reviewed proposals from USACA and ACF to form a relationship in an effort to enhance youth development. USACA's proposal was unanimously rejected while the USYCA board voted to approve an agreement with ACF. Harrison says he has no animosity towards Beazley but is confident that being with ACF is a wiser choice than being with USACA.

"I like Darren personally. I've met with him. I've talked to him on the phone a bunch of times. We've emailed back and forth. Personally he's a really nice guy," Harrison said. "We just see the USA from different perspectives and maybe that's because I'm from the USA and he's not.

"I don't envy him. There are times when I feel bad for him. I think I'm lucky. I think I'm in a way better placed than he is to achieve great things. Having his situation is far trickier than mine. He's got a divided group. They're subverting and there's the factions and the politics and all of this nonsense which completely inhibits his ability to do what needs to be done whereas we have a united team. Everybody's on the same page, everybody's altruistic, everybody has the best interests of the game at heart, egos are checked at the door. Everybody's working harmoniously together striving toward that goal."

While Gladstone Dainty's reign as USACA president since 2003 is an element of continuity, USACA has an overall reputation of instability centered around heavy debt, disputed election results and a pair of ICC suspensions. In making reference to former USACA chief executive Don Lockerbie, whose unexplained dismissal in 2010 came after less than two years in charge, Harrison says he's confident that he won't have to look over his shoulder to worry about ACF members giving him much angst.

"I don't have to worry about people stabbing me in the back. I don't have to worry about people undercutting me. We're all on the same team here and so for that reason I don't feel like I'm competing with Darren at all. I think we're going to do a lot more a lot quicker and move a lot faster just because we have all of the parts of the engine working harmoniously together. So it's kind of unfair to him to compare our success to his because his situation is so much worse. That having been said, I'm looking forward to pressing the reset button on US cricket."

The ACF is holding its second men's national Twenty20 tournament in Florida from October 12-14. The first ACF elections are scheduled for December.

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 11, 2013, 8:42 GMT

    Well, well, well. Rhetoric or substance? It is great when we talk about moving USA cricket to a higher level. It can be done, but with and by people who have the capacity and the will to do so.

    One thing that would definitely do it is name calling. I am not inferring that this was done here.

    We people responsible to move cricket on would have to sit with each other with one mindset and that is to positively attack the problems that are keeping our cricket from advancing. What they are! superfluous.

    Let a spirit of cooperation and resolve prevail. When we screw up, cricket suffers.

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2013, 11:36 GMT

    @Ashan Khan Why would Jamie, or anyone for that matter, cooperate with USACA? It is a dead organization, buried in massive debt and crippled by political factions. USACA's time is past and now America is moving forward without them. Eventually, the ICC will wake up, too.

  • Baskar on September 10, 2013, 8:28 GMT

    @ Ahsan Khan - So you want Jamie Harrison to cooperate with those who have arbitrarily banned leagues so that they can stay in power through skewed elections and those who insist on top-down, my-way-or-the-highway approach to US cricket. I would be very disappointed if the likes of Jamie Harrison were to overlook such irreconcilable differences between the current USACA regime and ACF, and somehow "cooperate." It is USACA which has to clean up its act and there is a lot to clean up.

  • Roger on September 10, 2013, 1:02 GMT

    The problem with USACA is not the CEO (Beazley). It is the board, led by Dainty. If they could have a proper election and get the right people in power, people like Harrison, things would be so much brighter for cricket in America.

    If only...

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2013, 0:41 GMT

    I do greatly admire Jamie and his efforts at cricket development in US. But not joining forces with USACA has yet again divided the country into different factions. I'm sure he can develop a great cricket team, but how would a young cricketer who puts in all his efforts into his play break into international cricket without getting a chance to play at ICC level? Does Jamie want ICC to drop USACA and recognize ACF instead - if so - that's bad form, my friend and just not how the game is played. Jamie needs to demonstrate greater leadership and create synergies with USACA instead of resorting to the blame game. I would have admired him more, if he had come up with a plan to join forces with Darren and take US cricket to the next level - this is what the country needs right now. So, what is your plan, Jamie?

  • Baskar on September 9, 2013, 21:09 GMT

    This could be 1776 for US cricket

  • Cricket on September 9, 2013, 15:00 GMT

    The best part is:

    I don't feel like I'm competing with Darren at all. I think we're going to do a lot more a lot quicker and move a lot faster just because we have all of the parts of the engine working harmoniously together.

    Finally, someone with credible profile is heading the growth of cricket in US. Goodluck ACF.

  • James on September 9, 2013, 12:17 GMT

    Jamie is the perfect person to have in this position. You can tell that he actually cares about US cricket and truly wants to make things better. He's not doing it for money.

    I hope this works out for the ACF and we can actually see some good cricket coming out of this country.

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