Across the Welsh media you will hear how great a year it has been for Welsh football. The evidence for this claim is strong:
- Swansea City enjoyed a comfortable second season in the Premier League and won the League Cup;
- Cardiff City will join them in the Premier League next season after dominating the Championship;
- Newport County return to the football league for the first time since the late 80s;
- Wrexham won the FA Trophy.
All four clubs are Welsh sides succeeding in the English league and cup system. The reason for Newport’s exile by the Football Association of Wales in the 90s was a refusal to join the League of Wales (now Welsh Premier). At the time eight clubs refused to leave the English pyramid, most eventually gave way until only Newport County and Colwyn Bay remained as rebels.
Twenty one years after the League of Wales launched it is clear that Newport County made the right decision to stay in the English leagues. Barry Town, at the time a fellow rebel, have been in free fall in the Welsh structure after a short lived spell dominating the League of Wales. This season they failed to complete their fixtures. Llanelli FC’s attempt to go professional fell apart this season. The Welsh Premier clubs continue to make a minor impact at best in the European competitions, often knocked out before the domestic season even kicks off and it is hard to see that those clubs who joined the League of Wales have gained a great deal from doing so. Surely, all would happily swap places with Newport.
My aim in writing this article is not to condemn the Welsh Premier clubs, but to suggest that we should take a long hard look at whether the structure has been good for Welsh football. The evidence that it has been is far less convincing than that for the glorious season for Welsh clubs in the English leagues.