The International Cricket Council's threat to suspend the United States of America Cricket Association “with immediate effect” is no empty one.
A strongly-worded 19 page letter sent on January 28th to Gladstone Dainty, the USACA president, and signed by Narayanaswami Srinivasan, the ICC chairman, leaves little doubt as to the seriousness of the ICC's stance.
Using unusually strong language, the governing body's demands for information on USACA's finances, and the question it raises about the legitimacy of the group to run cricket in the country, point to an ICC Executive Board that has finally lost patience with one of its most troublesome members.
The minute detail which the letter covers, from demand bank statements and receipts to listing a catalogue of USACA'S failings, leaves little room for manoeuvre for the American governing body, and in some cases largely invites USACA to be the masters of their own destruction.
They may have already destroyed themselves as it is.
The letter's opening paragraph gave USACA until February 25th to respond, they did not do so until February 26th, and if the ICC are looking to rid themselves of a country they say “may have acted contrary to the best interests of cricket and contrary to the best interests of the ICC” that would be enough.
“Pursuant to Article 2.7 of the ICC Constitution, the ICC's Executive Board has the ability, upon written notice, to suspend a member with immediate effect from membership of the ICC for such period and subject to such terms and conditions as the Board may decide, where such a member fails to comply with any of the provisions contained in Article 2.7. By way of this letter, I am writing to provide USACA with notice that, for the reasons set out herein, the Board is considering exercising its power under Article 2.7 unless USACA is able to satisfactorily resolve the concerns that the Board has within the timeframes set out in this letter,” Srinivasan writes.
Article 2.7 covers a lot of ground, and gives the ICC the right to suspend a member if it fails to comply with its obligations financially, administratively, or if it “acts in such a way as to bring the game of cricket or the into disrepute or otherwise be contrary to the best interests of cricket or the ICC.”
At $4million in debt, USACA have little chance of fulfilling their financial obligations to the ICC, who they borrowed $200,000 from in 2013, of which $168,000 is still outstanding. The fact that an ICC audit in 2013 raised “substantial doubts about USACA's ability to continue as a going concern” says much and the ICC pointed out in the letter that if it exercised its right to call in the loan, the Association would be unable to repay the amount and would be in breach of its obligations as a member.
The $200,000 loan is a perfect example of the mess that the United States finds itself in at the moment. The five-year facility was given to USACA on the strict understanding that it “only be applied in relation to USACA administrative purposes, which purposes shall specifically exclude (a) any matter or issue involving Cricket Holdings America LLC and (b) in relation to any legal and/or professional advisors costs incurred by USACA whatsoever.”
Officials have privately expressed the belief that much of the money was used to pay Robin Singh, the US coach, while the legal fees relate to USACA's relationship to Cricket Holdings America LLC, the company that grew out of the US bid to develop a professional Twenty20 league.
In an emergency meeting in New York on February 15 this situation led to a heated exchange between Dainty and several USACA board members in which the deal that was struck with Singh came to light.
In their response to the ICC, the US attempted to allay some of the concerns surrounding their relationship with CHALLC, including among the supporting documents a letter from CHALLC showing that the agreement between the two is “cancelled and moot.”
However, Gladstone Dainty, the USACA president, and John Thickett, the USACA treasurer, are also the chairman and president of CHALLC, a situation one official this week called “a royal mess”.
The loan was also contingent upon the Association having a chief executive to run things, something they have not had since April 2014, and the administration side generally is believed to be a mess.
The domestic leagues that remain with USACA, and they growing fewer by the day as the American Cricket Federation grows stronger, have yet to hold new elections or ratify a constitution. There is due to be a vote on March 18th, but even that is in doubt, with questions being raised over the validity of some leagues who are named as having voting rights. One league, in Dallas, reportedly does not even exist on anything other than paper.
The ICC in its letter has demanded names and addresses of all USACA members, while also pointing out that USACA's failure to hold an election before November 2014 puts it in breach of ICC guidelines.
USACA is also struggling to maintain its right to claim to be the sole governing body of the game in the US, the emergence of the American Cricket Federation has fractured a country that was splintered to begin with.
“As you are aware, the Board has had concerns over the organisation and development of cricket in the USA for a number of years, and the role USACA has played in the apparent lack of progress of the game in the USA. Despite attempts made by the ICC and certain of its members to assist USACA in addressing these concerns, it appears no real improvement has been made,” Srinivasan writes.
“The US cricket community remains highly fractured, with a significant proportion of cricketers and teams not being aligned to USACA, and many being aligned to the rival American Cricket Federation.”
America's failings on the field are also highlighted, with the ICC pointing out that rather improving the men's team, USACA has been responsible for a decline in the game that leaves them “sitting in World Cricket League Division 4.”
The country's failings and the ICC's determination to do something about the problem sooner rather than later are neatly summed up towards the end of the letter on page 14 with a paragraph that reads; “In the ICC's opinion, by having several significant financial issues, not meeting ICC's membership requirements and not resolving the obvious failings highlighted in its own 100-day plan, USACA does not appear to be taking cricket forward in the USA, and subsequently not realising the unique potential for the game's significant development. It is, therefore, the view of the Board that USACA may have acted contrary to the best interests of cricket and contrary to the best interests of the ICC.”
The threat repeated at the start is reiterated at the end, leaving little doubt as to the importance with which the letter should be taken, and USACA is told that unless it can satisfy the ICC's concerns “the Board will consider seriously the prospect of suspending USACA's membership of the ICC with immediate effect and no further notice.”
Even then, the ICC gives USACA a final chance to prove they can get their house in order, providing a two page schedule of the information they want, and when it is required by, despite underlining several times throughout the letter “USACA is requested to provide the following information by 25 February 2015.”
But being a day late, and nearly $200,000 short, does not bode well for the game in the US.