Friday, 24 December 2010

Is Welsh Football Flying High?: Paul Fisher examines the current state of the Welsh game

Polly's Pause for Sport has one more post just in time for Christmas. Paul Fisher has kindly written a piece examining the current state of Welsh, and to an extent Scottish, football. Paul can be found writing at and you can follow him on Twitter. I hope you all enjoy it and have a Merry Christmas...

Cardiff and Swansea are flying high at the business end of the Championship and, as we enter the New Year, both will now be hoping to progress to the top flight of English football. Yes, English football.This of course begs the question of whether or not these teams should be playing in their own country or be integrated into the English leagues. If Cardiff and Swansea can do it and succeed, why can’t the other Welsh teams, Old Firm clubs or any other Scottish team do the same?

As it stands, the Welsh game has become polarised. While Cardiff and Swansea have both grown as teams in the second tier of English football, the rest of Welsh football has been left stagnating in their own leagues. The highest attendance in the Welsh Premier League this season being a lowly 1,030 for Bangor City versus TNS compared to Cardiff’s last home match at over 21,000 and Swansea’s more paltry 13,500. This just shows you the gulf between the other clubs in Wales.

The almost comical fact is that the winner of the Welsh Premier League has a chance to play European football while their counterparts, that play in the bigger league, would have to win the F.A Cup for this to happen. 

So who is having the last laugh? Undoubtedly the big two are far superior to any other team from Wales and if they keep playing the same way then they will go on to achieve greater things. This year could see either or both clubs promoted, thus bringing Welsh football into one of the world's leading football leagues. This, in turn, would further polarise the standard of the Welsh game.

None of the current Welsh National team ply their trade in the Welsh Premier League and only ten players play with either Swansea or Cardiff including former Manchester City and Celtic striker, Craig Bellamy. One of the most famous former players who played in the Welsh League was Cliff Jones; part of Tottenham Hotspur’s 1960/61 double winning side played with Bangor City towards the end of his career and is still Wales’ 6th top scorer of all time. 

The situation is mirrored in different sense north of the border as Celtic and Rangers rarely get a challenge for the league title, the same as it would not be a challenge for the big two Welsh teams against their smaller counterparts. If the money was available, what stops other Welsh and Scottish teams playing in English leagues?

A select number of Scottish clubs have participated in the FA Cup since the end of the 19th Century. Perhaps allowing British clubs to enter the FA Cup would be a good means of integrating the different leagues in one competition. This would also help to bring extra money to the clubs outside of England.

If and when the SPL gets reformed then I think this will give us the answers and maybe bring more money to the Scottish game. It depends on what happens to the Scottish leagues as there are many different ideas flying about. If the changes to help the SPL, or whatever it will be called, to become more competitive than the current format then the Old Firm will surely stay and show their worth, but if it changes make it just as easy for the Old Firm then surely they will want a bigger and better challenge.

Whether or not the Welsh or Scottish leagues can or will be integrated into the English leagues remains to be seen. But one thing is certain. Welsh and Scottish football need it. Each country have two clubs who reign supreme over the rest, such a system is not cohesive with creating the necessary strength in depth to help the respective football in both countries.

Good luck to both Cardiff and Swansea and if they realise their dream of reaching the Premiership then maybe it will spark a revolution but for anything major to happen in the near future it will need strong backing from many different sources. Money being the source of many problems and the answer to many questions is the key to success and failure as we have seen and will see again many times. Is there the financial opportunity there to make it worth certain people's time?

Thought, comments and opinions please...


  1. Bit of a misunderstanding of the reason for the existence of the WPL there. The reason the league was formed was to ensure the future independence of Wales as a national team.
    Historically, the biggest Welsh teams have played in the English pyramid, but in 1994, UEFA insisted that Wales needed a national league if it were to maintain its independence.
    Newport, Merthyr, Colwyn Bay and Wrexham, are all semi-pro teams playing in the English pyramid as they declined WPL membership.

    As for your "comical" fact - Bangor City beat Napoli in the ECWC in 1961, and more recently there have been other successes - not sure what is so "comical" there?

  2. This is ahistorical and decontextualised in terms of the relationships between Cardiff/Swansea and English football, the purpose and role of the Welsh Premier and the Old Firm, Scottish football and English football.

    For what it's worth (and, ok, this was a good year), Welsh Premier sides knocked out Finnish and Irish opposition in Europe last Summer and a third side lost in extra time against a Lithuanian outfit.

    It would be a more interesing question to wonder why, outside of a handful of clubs, Welsh and Scottish football is generally weak.

  3. I was merely saying it was comical because Cardiff and Swansea need to have a great run in the cup to qualify and the Welsh Premier League teams have the chance every year so it works out better for them - as for the misunderstanding it is basically just lack of Welsh football knowledge that is always growing. Also Welsh teams and Scottish teams can be good they just don't have the financial ability of their English neighbours

  4. The WPL is still in its infancy and has made great strides over the past 20 years. Several teams have had successful and memorable nights in Europe over the years too. As Ffwtbol has stated, Bangor and their historic victory against Italian giants Napoli. My team, Llanelli have also had success in the past, Motherwell stuttered in their home leg against us a few seasons back and we have also had a victory in Sweden and positive results in Lithuania, Latvia and Denmark.

    Unfortunately the positive and general hard work that people working behind the scenes do fails to get recognition from nobody, no in depth coverage from media *welsh language programme Sgorio being the exception* until this happens and people see the league in a positive light and not just a 'pubteam-league' our attendances will always suffer.

  5. I must say that it's certainly interesting to see how the WPL is viewed from outside, mainly incomprehension with a touch of condescention. The first two comments pretty much fill in the gaps about the foundation of the league of Wales but here's my two pence worth.

    I cannot think of any league at anytime that won't have had stronger teams in it, but that seems to be the Darwinian nature of football.

    Even if a national League had started in Wales at roughly the same time as the leagues in Scotland and England Cardiff and Swansea would still have been the strongest two clubs, they are based in the two biggest cities in Wales. It's no coincidence that the four biggest clubs in Wales (Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham and Newport) are situated in the four biggest towns/cities.

    Incidentally, if you consider the reasons why a nationwide league in Wales wasn't set up in Wales in the 19th century you would have to look at the transport system. Wales doesn't have a truly national rail or road network now so imagine the problems for the organisation of fixtures in the Victorian era.

    The transport system also explains why the clubs in Wales were drawn to England. North Wales was linked to the north west of England and south Wales was linked to the south/midlands in England. Hence the clubs were drawn towards these areas for their competitive matches

    Even if all Welsh clubs had followed the example of Eastern Europe in the mid 1990s (Clubs joining a new national league from the old "multi-national" system) the size differential would still be there, although probably reduced.

  6. Now, I don't follow Welsh football so thanks for the background, Ffwtbol. I think that a lot of Paul says is valid though. No one would disagree that the Welsh league, and the Scottish league to a lesser extent, is weak and that, in turn, the respective national teams are struggling.

    You are right The Jet Set. Wales' size would still make progress hard to come by even if it had been quicker to follow suit. But I think that if changes could be made to help then the quality of Welsh football would improve and, as you say Iantofwllpelt, media attention would be needed to help raise the profile. While Cardiff and Swansea enjoying success in the Championship, the rest of WPL remain relatively obscure and that balance needs to be addressed as does the Old Firm dominance in Scotland.

    Ultimately, I think that Paul has achieved the aim in writing this piece. It has triggered the debate about why Welsh football is, as Ian Johnson says, generally weak and what solutions are avilable to help the Welsh leagues to grow.

  7. Thanks Paul for the great post. for sure I will your blog and thanks for come by.

  8. Wales Premier League prediction game


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