May 29 - 15:30
How do you put a positive spin on Welsh Premier shambles?
LAST week’s Off The Fence (Super 12 will be far from
super) prompted complaints from the FA of Wales and
Newtown that the column was unduly negative.
However, even if it was the Daily Post’s role to
function as the PR arm of the FAW and Welsh Premier League
– as some mistakenly appear to believe – quite how would
you put a positive spin on the shambolic Super 12?
Newtown’s criticism of the article, in particular, was
ill-founded. The Latham Park side – who have failed to
finish higher than 10th since the League of Wales became
the Welsh Premier - have no need to apologise to anyone
for being granted a reprieve by the FAW’s licensing panel.
Unlike many of their rivals, they got their house in order
in due time and have reaped the benefits.
However, had their secretary Owen Durbridge read the
domestic licence criteria with the abandon he evidently
paid to this column’s examination of the revamp then it is
unlikely the mid-Wales outfit would have sneaked into next
season’s competition through the back door in the manner
In an open letter published on Newtown’s club website,
Durbridge’s accused the Daily Post of suggesting the FAW
should have bent the rules to allow Rhyl to stay in the
The article didn’t even hint at this, despite the
secretary puzzlingly placing the words "bent the rules" in
quotation marks. (Perhaps the phrase appeared in an issue
of the Daily Post published in a parallel universe, one in
which a club who finished 13th on goal difference was not
part of a league calling itself the Super 12.)
Nor did it criticise the decision of the panel to deny
Rhyl a licence on appeal. Given the lack of transparency
of last week’s hearings it would be impossible to give a
Instead, I suggested that the whole process should have
been far more flexible, with greater assistance provided
to clubs to help them meet the standards set. Even then it
was more the case of Cymru Alliance champions Llangefni I
had in mind.
Whatever the FAW’s vision is for the future of this
country’s game, it appears not to involve rewarding
success on the field – which is where relegation and
promotion should be decided, not in a Cardiff office.
The governing body claim to have done all they could to
enable clubs to meet their criteria. The noises emanating
from North Wales’ unsuccessful applicants suggests
Llangefni’s failure to secure a licence and a place in
the Super 12 represents a failure for the FAW.
The only way for the Islanders to generate the finances
necessary to improve their ground in such a short space of
time would be to play in the Super 12. But by imposing
such draconian standards the administrators have created a
glass ceiling at the summit of the Welsh Pyramid feeder
Such is the expense involved for many clubs to meet the
domestic licence criteria, that unless they gain financial
backing they are unlikely ever to taste top-flight
football. That can only be unhealthy for Welsh football.
Similarly, the article did not accuse the FAW of
southern bias – as Durbridge stated. Rather I commented
that given the devastating impact the Super 12 has had on
North Wales’ Welsh Premier representation and feeder
leagues, one could understand why many in this region feel
The Newtown secretary concluded by calling on the Post
to support the Super 12. If by that he means, providing
the same level of coverage to North Wales’ four remaining
teams, then, yes, we will. The only difference will be
with the likes of Rhyl now in the second tier, the profile
of the Cymru will be advanced in our pages.
However, the Post would be found wanting in its
responsibility to North Wales’ clubs and supporters if it
did not question the failings of the process which has to
the formation of the rebranded top flight.
The Super 12 was supposed to herald a new level of
professional standards in Welsh football, but it has only
served to expose the rank amateurism behind the scenes.
With just over two months before the resumption of
action, the division has yet to decide on the nature of
next season’s competition, let alone how many games it
will be comprised of, meaning teams can’t even begin to
plan their budgets for the next campaign.
Such matters should have been sorted at least a year in
advance. Who knows why anyone believed reducing the league
to 10 or 12 sides would improve the standard of football
or make the league more attractive to supporters? One of
the great strengths of the league was the variety of teams
But if that is what the FAW and Welsh Premier wanted
there should have been a gradual reduction down from 18
members over the course of two or three years. This would
have lessened the impact on the feeder leagues - who
unforgivably had no say on the matter - and allowed sides
a more realistic deadline to work towards attaining their
Opposition to summer football – which would be the best
solution to the problems faced by the league - has often
centred on an unwillingness to break from tradition.
Surely, though, moving to a 44-game season will be a
And as Tomi Morgan noted, if clubs struggled to draw
crowds this season, supporters are unlikely to be
attracted by watching more games against the same teams.
The world certainly doesn’t need four Haverfordwest v
Newtown encounters a season.
The other options open the league are even less
appealing. Splitting the division into two at the half-way
stage is exactly the sort of faddy system that is
destroying club rugby. What next, a play-off to win the
title? Cheerleaders? American football-style names? The
Bangor City Buccaneers, the Prestatyn Panthers.
Unless the FAW and Welsh Premier can quickly address
the weaknesses of the Super 12, ambitious and
well-supported sides like Rhyl and Bangor may start to
believe their interests would be best served in the
Then the league really will be in trouble.