"A new chapter in US Cricket", "A new beginning", "The first step in the right direction".. all of these phrases are very aptly being used to describe the events that took place in Chicago on Aug 29th at the all stakeholder Town-Hall meeting that ICC had organized.
As we all know, USA Cricket Association (USACA) as the ICC approved National Governing Body (NGB) for Cricket has not really been able to deliver on the promise of developing the game domestically here in the US. USACA was formed in 1965 and has had 50 years to try and accomplish this but there's been mostly failures than success stories. Over the last 6-7 years USACA has been suspended a few times by the ICC. They have been provided ample opportunity to turn things around but haven't been able to do it. In the meantime, many splinter groups have formed during these last few years that tout themselves as an alternate to USACA. ACF (American Cricket Federation) and CCUSA (Cricket Council USA) are two of the more prominent ones but there are many more. A very fractious community that has had everyone doing their own thing in the hopes that something will stick to put it very bluntly. No common theme and no common agenda. A sad state of affairs but true.
Earlier this year, ICC decided that in order to make any decisions as to the recognition of any NGB, they needed to have a better understanding of the Cricket landscape in the US. ICC began directly approaching all of the Leagues and Associations across the country, collecting as much information as possible on the operational details of all these organizations. ACA was also asked to provide information on our league and we did that. After having gone through this process, I believe it was very evident to ICC that there is a lot of Cricket being played and organized across the country and USACA is not truly representative of all of this activity. As a result, ICC suspended USACA yet again in June of this year.
Subsequent to suspending USACA, ICC has formed an Advisory Group comprised of some key stakeholders of US Cricket and some other professionals that have experience in successfully developing other struggling sports in the US such as Soccer and Rugby. The primary objective of this Advisory Group is to devise a strategic development plan for the game and recommendations for a framework of what the regional and national organizational and competitive structure needs to look like in order to meet the objectives of that strategic plan. A framework that then can be adopted by a newly formed NGB blessed by the ICC and one that has the support of all stakeholders across the country.
The meeting in Chicago really was an attempt by ICC to socialize this plan/approach among all of the stakeholders across the US and build some consensus around it. If the energy and enthusiasm displayed at the meeting is a true measure, I would say they were very successful in achieving that objective. There were about 80 people that were present at the meeting representing many different organizations across the US. Based on the questions that were asked and comments made, it was apparent to me that there is surely a feeling of relief at the concrete measures ICC is taking and optimism as to what it will lead to. Interestingly though, the current USACA board was absent with only their officially appointed rep on the ICC Advisory Group present. Here are a few articles that are doing the rounds right now that will hopefully give you a better perspective of what took place at the meeting.
So what does this mean for ACA?
At the moment, not much. However, as an entity that ought to continue its efforts to lead development efforts here in Arizona, I believe ACA needs to stay engaged and closely follow whatever the ICC Advisory Group is doing or comes up with. The answer that was provided to a question asked as to when we might actually see a new NGB and the strategic plan completed was "a few months". So, at this time, it looks like we could have something come through not too far into the future. Bottom line is that ICC truly does see the potential of Cricket in the USA and has made it their #1 priority among all associate members; one that has their complete focus and commitment. Per some stats that were shared, there are about 200,000 people actively playing Cricket here and about 15 Million fans. As Mark Haysman, the MC for the meeting put it, this is a very strong base to work with unlike other associate ICC members where there is very little happening. Comments by David Richardson (ICC CEO) and Tim Anderson (ICC Global Development) left no ambiguity or vagueness with regards to ICC's commitment. At a personal level, I feel very excited about the prospects of where all this might lead ACA and US Cricket. Developing Cricket in the US is a monumental task that has some very complex issues such as infrastructure and funding as huge constraints and hurdles to overcome. Not to mention navigating the treacherous waters of influential "Cricket Administrators" that are laden with agendas of self-promotion and profit making than to see the sport develop. It will take decades for the vision to come to fruition for sure. Seems like ICC is in it for the long haul though and has, at least in words for now, committed itself to make it happen. Let's hope and pray they follow it up with action. As Cricket lovers, I think we have reason to remain optimistic.