After 52 years as the ICC's member governing body in the USA, the USA Cricket Association (USACA) was expelled following a unanimous vote at the ICC's board meeting on Thursday during the AGM in London. The expulsion ends a turbulent tenure that included three suspensions handed down by the ICC since 2005. While USACA was able to get its affairs in order to have the first two suspensions lifted, there was no way back from its most recent reprimand in 2015.
"We would hope that this puts a final line on the matter," ICC chief executive David Richardson said when asked about USACA's expulsion in a conference call with reporters following the vote on Thursday. "Whether they decide to take legal action is obviously their decision but we would be ready to oppose it if need be."
USACA had threatened to take the ICC to court in the event of being expelled but Richardson says the ICC has proven it is standing on firm ground and does not expect the decision to be overturned by any legal challenge USACA might attempt. USACA president Gladstone Dainty and executive secretary Sankar Renganathan did not respond to ESPNcricinfo's requests for comment on the expulsion.
"Don't forget they've already taken the matter to the ICC Dispute Resolution Committee on an expedited basis attempting to stop the board and full council from considering the expulsion of USACA at these meetings," Richardson said. "The arbitrator found in favor of the ICC and found the ICC had acted rationally and was quite entitled to take the decision to expel USACA."
An ICC Americas-led caretaker administration has been overseeing cricket operations in the USA since USACA's suspension in 2015 and Richardson said they would continue to organise national team activities in the interim until the ICC approves a different governing body to replace USACA. A USA women's squad was announced earlier this week to tour Scotland for a T20 Qualifier, reaffirming Richardson's stance, since 2015, that USA's players should not be punished as a consequence of USACA's troubles.
"The whole process, from suspending USACA to expelling them, the whole objective was to unite the cricket community in the United States behind a national governing body that represented everybody," Richardson said. "So the first step will be creating the governance infrastructure to fill that void and represent the whole cricket community bearing in mind the size of the country.
"Coming with that will be the competition structures that need to exist, the development pathway, everything that a national governing body needs to get involved in. Over the next 12 months, that will be developed slowly but surely. At the same time [that USACA has been expelled], up until now the board has taken the approach that we don't want to prejudice people playing cricket in the United States. So at the moment we have got an American office and within that office we have staff tasked with looking after the cricket community to ensure that at least the minimum is done to keep cricket going."
USACA had faced numerous problems in recent years, mainly to do with governance. The board also struggled to escape from crushing debt, currently listed at more than $4 million, though a large chunk of that came about as a result of exorbitant legal fees racked up from court battles waged by the board, including one relating to the disputed general elections of 2012. The money owed to lawyers ate into the organisation's ability to fund national team activities, with various national camps and tournaments either postponed or canceled as a result.
But the final straw leading to expulsion was USACA's refusal to ratify an ICC-approved constitution, one aimed at curing governance woes by way of proposed term limits for board members as well as redefined positions on the board to reduce the powers of the incumbent executive. Instead, USACA ratified an alternate, edited version at a special general meeting on April 8, escalating the battle with the ICC before it reached its tipping point on Thursday. Richardson had sent a letter to USACA's leadership following the vote at the April 8 AGM, warning them that the decision to ratify an altered version of what the ICC had presented to them 'seriously undermined' their chances of having suspension lifted.
USACA's path to expulsion was set in motion more than five years ago during the events leading into the disputed 2012 general election. Based on the results of a member compliance audit, the incumbent USACA board took the decision to disenfranchise 32 out of 47 voting-eligible league members in highly controversial circumstances. Many of the league presidents who were disenfranchised had publicly voiced opposition to USACA president Gladstone Dainty in a conference call several months prior to the election, which Dainty and most of the incumbent board eventually won in a landslide.
However, it proved to be a pyrrhic victory for Dainty and the rest of the board because the majority of the disenfranchised leagues broke off to form the American Cricket Federation rather than pursue reinstatement with USACA. Under the ICC membership guidelines at the time, a member needed to be the "sole governing body" for administering cricket in their country. If more than two governing bodies existed with both claiming to have superiority, it could be seen as a violation of the statute and grounds to have membership status suspended. In fact, this particular scenario was a contributing factor to USACA's first suspension in 2005.
The ICC initially aided USACA by amending the wording of the Associate membership statute 3.1. Rather than the "sole" governing body being the ICC's member in a given country, the ICC would recognise the governing body - at the ICC's own discretion - that is "responsible for the administration, management and development of cricket in the country." The ICC subsequently encouraged ACF leagues to rejoin USACA in an effort to mend fences.
But ACF leadership spurned this approach and though a Dainty-led board won re-election again in 2015, the victory was short-lived as the ICC suspended USACA later that summer. An ICC report, which was presented to the world body's members ahead of the suspension vote at the 2015 ICC annual conference, laid out numerous flaws with USACA. Among them, the ICC found that USACA did not represent the majority of clubs and leagues around the country and that the general consensus of stakeholders found USACA 'unprofessional and not trustworthy'.
The ICC subsequently laid out 39 terms and conditions for USACA to be reinstated. USACA was able to meet many of the requirements, but the main sticking point was the new constitution. The ICC has since formed a series of advisory groups in four key areas to help design the framework for a successful governance model in the future. It is expected these advisory groups will continue to work with ICC Americas staff until a governing body is designated to fill the vacancy left by USACA, a process expected to take a minimum of one to two years.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna