IN a special focus this week, I take a look a topic that’s been bugging me (and many a local club) for quite some time now … restrictions for promoted teams in Wales.
I’m a keen follower of all things Welsh football, I’m by no means an expert, but I do know a thing or two and nothing grinds my gears more than a team being told they have to “do this and that” after being promoted or they won’t be allowed to compete in a certain league.
Glantraeth FC recently won the Welsh Alliance Divison One League by a landslide 16 points, but have rejected promotion to the Huws Gray Alliance next season as the requirements that they are asking of them if they do go up are simply absurd.
If they had accepted the promotion, the club would have had to erect a 250 seat stand on their ground over the next two seasons, which is effectively a seat for every person in the village.
Glantraeth secretary Stan Strickland, feels that village clubs are being unfairly restricted in their quest for promotion: “We might be accused of lacking ambition but this is a dilemma that many clubs in the Welsh Alliance are going to have to face in future if they finish in a promotion position.” he said.
“Our ground is on privately owned land so we simply can’t be adding a massive stand on top of it. We already have a 63 seater stand which rarely sees more than 20 people sitting in it, so erecting a 250 seat stand is quite frankly absurd.”
Even Welsh Premier League football matches on the weekends, very rarely attract over 400-500 fans a game, unless it’s a big occasion, so to ask that of village clubs is ridiculous. The cost of building the stands would be unrealistic to ask for a club of Glantraeth’s size to achieve.
The club, which elected Hollywood star Naomi Watts as its President in 2016, now expect to lose a player or two as an outcome of the decision that they’ve been forced to make.
Stan Strickland added: “We appreciate there will be disappointment after all we have achieved this season. Some of our players will be happy to continue in the Welsh Alliance while others are ambitious to play at a higher level. We respect that and accept that some might leave but I believe the decision we have made is the right one for the club.”
Glan’s stand out player this season has been the prolific Corrig McGonigle, 20. The former Bangor Under 19’s striker has scored over 55 goals in all competitions this season, including 41 in the league.
Following a club meeting last week, a Glantraeth statement read: “In the past we have always accepted promotion from the Welsh Alliance and have enjoyed considerable success at the higher level, it was then a comparatively easy decision to make. However, it is now a whole new ballgame with the huge changes to the criteria for membership of the Huws Gray Alliance that have been introduced.
“A 250-seater stand as required within two years is simply not possible on our privately owned ground, that is a fact, so accepting promotion would mean making a big commitment but with no long term future in the higher league as we would be relegated back to the Welsh Alliance no matter what our league position due to not meeting the ground criteria as specified by the FAW.”
Welsh Alliance League Division One Runners-up, Llandudno Junction, will now take the place of Glantraeth in the Huws Gray Alliance next year. It will be the highest level that the club has ever played at and after three seasons of finishing second in Division One, they will finally get a chance to ply their trade in Wales second tier.
My view on this is that the Welsh FA are simply expecting unrealistic things from clubs that do not have enough financial backing to be achieving the goals that they are setting them.
I understand that the FA are probably under pressure from higher powers to get lower league clubs up to a closer standard to those in the Welsh Prem, but without the money, how are clubs supposed to compete? They are not professional teams, not even semi-pro (except for some). They are just a bunch of lads who want to play football and want to show Wales what they can do, but these new rules are stopping them.
Glantraeth absolutely dominated their league this year and so for them to miss out on being promoted simply because of a restriction that has been put in place is ludicrous. Imagine if the winner of English League One couldn’t get into the Championship because they didn’t have enough seats at their ground. Crazy!
I think, regardless of how many fans come to watch, promotion is promotion and champions are champions and that is what the Huws Gray Alliance should be looking at here. Sort it out before it ruins local football completely and teams don’t want to compete anymore.