Darren Beazley started his new job last week as top dog of the United States of America Cricket Association. He certainly has impressive credentials, with four degrees and a career in sports administration, including as general manager of business development for the Western Australia Cricket Association. Unfortunately for Beazley USACA's problems are so entrenched that it will take a miracle rather than an MBA to rescue the organisation.
The recent postponement of the planned T20 league in the country until 2014 was widely expected. Two excuses have been proffered: the lack of turf wickets and difficulties finding investors. The first of these can be discounted. Only a few months ago, when there were still hopes of securing franchise owners, Neil Maxwell, the league's chief executive, said "one of the fundamental areas that has held people back historically is the concept of playing cricket on turf pitches."
Money was the fundamental problem. This league was intended as an earner for several parties: the private companies that provided start-up funding; New Zealand Cricket, who are partners in the league; and the perpetually cash-strapped USACA. The plan, outlined in October, was to sell the franchises for $40 million each, payable over ten years. With the IPL franchises valued between $33 million and $80 million, it is not surprising that nobody was willing to gamble on a new league in an untested market.
USACA's future is tied to the success of the league. Put simply, they have no money left; by the end of 2011 the total deficiency in their net assets was $1,899,368. The organization was kept afloat with loans totalling $1,870,000 from two private investors in the T20 league, which were made as advances against future earnings. But if there is no league, and it is two years late already, there will be no realistic possibility of repayment.
As well as their gory balance sheet, USACA is the defendant in a case winding its way through the New York courts. They are facing allegations of breach of contract and fraud during the tendering process for the proposed T20 league. It is believed that USACA have already spent sums well into six figures defending the lawsuit, and if the case goes against them it will likely force them into bankruptcy.
USACA also faces a final, existential threat. A rival organization, the American Cricket Federation, was formed in May 2012, and includes many of the leagues which USACA barred from voting in its last election. The ACF's draft constitution, published last month, has been widely praised for broadening membership to individuals and clubs rather than just leagues, and providing the safeguards to prevent the machinations that have plagued USACA.
Already in their short existence the ACF have run a successful tournament, whereas only a single 50 over game and a trial T20 match were played under USACA's auspices in the entirety of 2011. The under 15, under 17 and under 19 national tournaments, as well as the women's national tournament, were all cancelled.
USACA are no longer in control of American cricket. According to an estimate from Dreamcricket.com there are more than 700 clubs playing outside their jurisdiction. De facto, they are not the national sporting body. The reality on the ground is different from the world of the International Cricket Council, who gave USACA $372,050 in 2011. In their eyes, USACA remain the uncontested guardians of cricket in the USA.
Even this legal status may be challenged. One of the criteria for all ICC associate and affiliate members is that they are "the sole recognised governing body for cricket in the country." A letter from the government's sports agency or the National Olympic Committee is required to confirm this status. USACA are not part of the United States Olympics Committee, with the main block to membership, according to Peter Della Penna, their lack of player representation on any committees.
Without such confirmation the ICC will accept "letters from the membership base endorsing the Applicant as the sole governing body." Given the ruptures caused by USACA it is hard to envisage many letters praising Dainty's organization finding their way to the ICC offices in Dubai. Removing USACA from world cricket has precedents. Not only has it twice been suspended for poor governance but last year Switzerland was thrown out of the ICC when a rival organization threatened to usurp the long-standing Swiss Cricket Association.
An organization on the brink of bankruptcy, with its one hope of future revenue blocked and facing threats from both the courts and a better organized rival. Good Luck Mr. Beazley. You sure will need it.
This article originally appeared on The Silly Mid Off and is reproduced with kind permission of the author.