Former USACA member wants 'amateur' board to reform
A former member of the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) board has labelled the organisation "amateur" and called upon the ICC to take "strong action" to revive cricket in the USA.
Brian Walters, who headed USACA's Governance Review Committee, resigned from the board in March in frustration at the lack of change and in support of the former CEO, Darren Beazley, who quit amid similar frustration. By then it had become apparent that the USACA board would not embrace the recommendations of the review committee which advocated term limits for board members, independent board members and skill-based appointments.
The timing of Walters' intervention is intriguing. The ICC are expected to discuss suspending the USACA at the end of June and the critical words of a man respected as a moderate will demand the attention of those charged with deciding what can be done to exploit the vast untouched cricket market that exists within the USA. While Walters stops just short of recommending a suspension, it is hard to see how else his words can be interpreted.
"The ICC has long espoused a 'carrot' approach instead of a 'stick' approach," Walters told ESPNcricinfo. "And I would imagine that they might be contemplating that strategy right now.
"If USACA continues to be the recognised governing body, there needs to be implementation of the Governance Review Committee recommendations immediately. And there needs to be elections that include as many leagues as possible within the next six months, which will allow the members to decide who they want as a leader.
"USACA can only be taken seriously as a viable entity if real, tangible change takes place at the board level and at the constitutional level. It's an amateur operation and they appear to want to keep it that way. They appear to not want professionalism, as evidenced by the fact that Darren Beazley was not granted the autonomy that is needed in that role; there needs to be a properly functioning CEO in place who is allowed to do his/her job. Darren was exactly the type of seasoned, competent professional who should have been empowered to run day-to-day operations.
"But the board was actively hostile towards him and needs to go back to being an advisory board, and stay out of the functional areas of managing the sport. It needs to be a functionally operational board with emphasis on skill-based representation and term limits for all members."
While the American Cricket Federation (ACF), a rival organisation to USACA, has gained the support of around a third of the leagues around the country, Walters is reluctant to offer his support to the organisation fearing that their sometimes "confrontational" style will prove counterproductive.
"Anyone who puts cricket kits in the hands of school kids in this country is doing a good thing," Walters said. "But I don't think that the ICC will recognise them. I am not interested at this time with being involved with the ACF."
The ACF itself has not really done much work with youth cricket, but Jamie Harrison did the work of distributing youth cricket sets in his capacity as president of the US Youth Cricket Association (USYCA) prior to taking on the role as chief executive with the ACF. He is currently serving a dual role with the ACF and the USYCA, leading to some confusion as to what he is accomplishing in an ACF capacity versus a USYCA capacity.
While the deflection of that sizeable chunk of the country's senior hard-ball leagues to the ACF could cause the USACA problems at the ICC level - under ICC rules, Associate membership is dependent upon a board proving that it is "the sole recognised governing body for cricket in the country" - Walters said he expected those leagues to return to the USACA fold should it clean up its act.
"I also think it to be the case that if USACA were to get its house in order, the leagues that went to the ACF would come back to USACA," Walters said. "But in order to gain trust in the community, the leadership of USACA needs to be different. It is not the fault of any specific board member; it is that the organisation itself is tainted. There needs to be a concerted effort to repair and rebuild confidence and goodwill with sponsors, member leagues, partners in sport and municipalities. There is serious remedial work to be done.
"There is palpable frustration all over the country at the ineptness of USACA and it would take a gargantuan effort to fix that. It might be too late.
"But what has to take place, in order to salvage anything, is that there simply has to be a change in leadership."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo