Exploring the Welsh National League
This season the mid season split has come but with some controversy, but how does a split work? What is going on with our near neighbours national league?
The Corbett Sports Welsh Premier Football League has been going for the same amount of time as the Barclays Premier League, so since 1992. However it hasn’t been able to gather the best teams in Wales to compete in it. Cardiff and Swansea and enjoying the ups and downs of the Premier League whilst Newport have finally reached League football again with Wrexham pushing for promotion in the Conference Premier. The only other two clubs who would have a real chance of doing well in the Welsh Premier are Colwyn Bay and Merthyr Town who are in the lower reaches of the English non league system.
So this immediately presents a problem of how to get more people to watch and support Welsh Premier League clubs as people want to see the best teams your country has to offer. The league does offer European football though with the champions going into the Champions League whilst there are 3 other places for the Europa League, one of which comes through winning the Welsh Cup. Plenty to play for with European competition bringing in hundred of thousands should clubs draw a big team or get through one or two rounds. This lure of top European teams coming to Wales through its own system could be a major turning point in the league’s fortunes so in the 2009/10 season the league was restructured to today’s model.
This restructuring was voted on a year before with all the members of the Welsh Premier League in order to improve grounds, playing surface and competition domestically in order to compete better in European competition. The result of this for competing teams in the 2008/09 season was Rhyl getting relegated from the league despite being one of the best supported clubs and finishing 6th because their ground wasn’t up to new regulation. Connah’s Quay, Porthmadog, Welshpool Town, Caersws and Cefn Druids were all relegated as a result of their league standings as the league was now cut to just 12 teams from 18 in a bid to make the league more competitive. It was cut to 12 teams so that before February every team will have played each other twice and then the league would be split down the middle. The top 6 would compete for the title and the European place in 2nd place, whilst the bottom 6 compete to stay up, as two go down, and 7th place. There is then a play off involving 3rd to 7th place to determine the last European spot, unless the top two win the Welsh Cup then 8th place will get the chance to compete with 3rd placed getting an automatic spot.
If you’ve read this far then you can see it is a less than straight forward league system, but something happened this season to make it even more confusing for Welsh Football fans.
Aberystwyth Town and Rhyl were competing until the final fixture before the split for the final top 6 place. Aberystwyth went away to Carmarthen Town, whilst Rhyl hosted Port Talbot, with Aberystwyth a point ahead in 6th place. After terrible weather postponing the fixtures a few times Carmarthen managed to get the game on the 25th Jan with the league keen to get both games played at exactly the same time. However a pitch inspection carried out on the Friday (24th) by Rhyl deemed their pitch unplayable but they didn’t inform the league, which broke league rules. So Aberystwyth played and won 3-0 sending them through to the top 6 regardless of what happened in the Rhyl game.
But there was then a charge against Aberystwyth of fielding a suspended player earlier in the season, despite his name not appearing on the FAW (Football Assication Wales) banned list for that week. An FAW hearing was then set for the following Tuesday and then on the 30th Jan the decision was made to dock Aberystwyth 3 points, putting them back to just a point ahead of Rhyl. Rhyl then played Port Talbot on Sat 1st Feb and despite being 1-0 down at half time came back and scored 5 in the second half to Talbots one, with the score 5-2 to Rhyl. This sent them through to the top 6 ahead of Aberystwyth by 2 points.
Aberystwyth then appealed the decision, at the expense of £650, but the decision stood and Aberystwyth have since backed down and will play the remainder of the season in the bottom 6. So Aberystwyth are 2 points ahead of Port Talbot in 7th place and still in the quarter finals of the Welsh Cup, giving them two chances of Europe next season. Their counter parts Rhyl are 13 points off 2nd leaving them a lot of work to do to get an automatic spot.
Therefore after this brief overview this has hopefully given you a little insight into the Welsh Premier League. It’s confusing yet gives plenty of opportunity for clubs to compete in Europe. So when Real Madrid come to Bangor make sure you book your ticket early!
I will do any follow up articles to topics touched on, just leave a comment.
More information on some of the teams and the FAW can be found below: