The American Cricket Federation has submitted a formal request to the ICC to recognise the ACF as a governing body for cricket in the United States in a strategic move that ACF chief executive Jamie Harrison admits may cause the ICC to suspend the USA's Associate membership for the third time in a decade. Harrison says that another suspension will allow USA to clean up its own domestic structure.
"What we're asking is for the ICC to acknowledge that there are multiple governing bodies in the United States, which is undeniable, and then to apply its own rules and constitution to that situation," Harrison told ESPNcricinfo on Wednesday. "If you read the ICC rules and look at the immediate precedent of what happened in Switzerland, the ICC has no wriggle room here."
According to the ICC guidelines for Associate Membership, "members must satisfy that they are the sole recognised governing body for cricket in the country". In 2011, Switzerland had its ICC membership suspended before their membership was removed entirely in 2012 after a rival governing body challenged the status of the Swiss Cricket Association. Previous battles waged in the USA between unrecognised governing bodies and the USA Cricket Association resulted in a pair of ICC suspensions but reconciliations were eventually achieved to allow USA to be readmitted into the ICC fold. Harrison has no intention for that this time around.
"There will be no merger," Harrison said. "We're not giving an inch. We're going to see that out to the end. We're not talking to USACA, and we're prepared for what comes down the road."
The ACF announced on Wednesday that the Commonwealth Cricket League, the largest league in America with 72 teams competing in New York City, had become the newest ACF member. It's another dent to USACA, particularly in light of their 2012 tax return revealing $3 million in debt and membership fees that were down 47% from 2011 to 2012. Harrison says that USACA's "toxic brand" makes them incapable of recovering and that they're holding back cricket in the country from developing. If the ICC recognises the ACF, Harrison believes it will open the door for American cricket to regenerate.
"Imagine you have a building site in a prime location. The only problem is that occupying the site is a burned out shell of a building. You can't begin to make something good of that site until you tear down that shell," Harrison said. "Once the site is cleared you can begin building a new edifice. Well, this is the first step. We've asked the ICC to make it possible to tear down the old structure. We understand that some people may be emotionally attached to the old structure but I'm hoping they'll look to the future and see the great plans for the new structure."
Harrison realises that there may be an initial uproar over engaging in action that may cause the ICC to suspend USA but says that the ACF purposely held off from attempting any manoeuvre late last year so as not to interfere with USA's participation at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. USA's 15th-place finish in the event, and their earlier failure last year at World Cricket League Division Three which prevented their participation in the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand in January, meant that USA has no ICC commitments in 2014 that they would be barred from competing in and Harrison felt that now would be the best time to take action.
"The ICC, if they act appropriately and don't drag their feet and do the obvious thing in keeping with their rules and their constitution, this can be done in a relatively short period of time," he said. "The restructuring of US cricket can be done within a year.
"It would be nice if we could separate administrative issues from opportunities for our players to play cricket and the success of our international team but those things are intertwined and welded together. If we had better administration, our international team would be more successful and right now it would be preparing to compete in another international tournament. We intend to make better administration and better results for clubs, leagues, all the way down the line but we can't start that process without taking this first step."
In August, Harrison had told ESPNcricinfo that the USA should "revoke its ICC membership." When asked on Wednesday why he was now seeking ICC recognition, Harrison answered that it isn't the ACF's objective. He believes that although it would be "a feather in the ACF's cap" to have that status, being the ICC-recognised national governing body is "not a prerequisite for success" and that the USA should look to become self-sufficient rather than depend on $300,000 in ICC funding for survival.
"With the Big Three takeover, they talked a lot about countries being self-sufficient and they're absolutely right. Countries have to be self-sufficient. The mistake we've always made in the USA is being completely dependent on ICC funding to run our programmes and our entire administration. The truth is that ICC funding should not be running your operations. You should be self-sufficient."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. He tweets here