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 steakheed.wordpress.com 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...