Win or lose today, Welsh football has shown rugby what a national sport looks like

Picture by Jeremy Segrott (CC BY 2.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

I’ve always preferred rugby to football. I didn’t get much choice in the matter – my grandfather was rugby mad and would always have a spare seat for me at the Millennium Stadium.

I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else in the week leading up to Six Nations game. February and March disappear into a vortex of matches that transport me from the depths of winter to the first warmth of spring.

Football has never inspired the same passion in me, and I struggle to sit through an entire match.

However, I must admit that when it comes to building a national team, the Welsh FA is showing the WRU how it’s done.

It has little to do with anything happening on the pitch, and everything to do with culture, attitude and national pride surrounding the team.

Rugby is more than just a national sport – it’s no coincidence that the rugby stadium is right in the middle of our capital city, while our Parliament is a mile away down in the Bay somewhere.

The sport has become the supreme expression of Welsh national identity. Rugby and Wales have become synonymous.

It’s a shame therefore that Welsh rugby has been, quite deliberately in my own opinion, infused with British symbolism – from the three feathers on the shirt, to the ‘Prince William Cup’, to the man himself as vice-patron.

The pre-match entertainment has a strong military theme. We have a ‘Principality Stadium’, just to remind us that we’re not a real country.

The entire jamboree is geared towards reminding Wales of its place as a contributing part within a wider British nation.

It’s no surprise when there’s little complaint when the long-term success of the national team is sacrificed for a once every four years series to the southern hemisphere.

The only symbols of Welshness, if you can call them that, are daffodil hats and inflatable sheep –  Welsh identity reduced to a cartoonish parody of itself.

There’s also a close, inward-looking mindset. Most of the teams played on loop every year are former British colonies. They’re bound together by their shared Anglo-Saxon culture and a deference to the British establishment.

Even the discourse used to describe Welsh rugby recalls the stereotypes used since the days of the British Empire. The ‘magical’, quick-witted Welsh against the Teutonic, strong-willed English.


According to the academic Michael Billing, there are two kinds of nationalism – ‘hot’ nationalism, which seeks to change the current order, and ‘banal’ nationalism, which seeks to keep things the same.

Welsh rugby has become a propaganda vehicle for a know-your-place, ‘banal’ British nationalism.

It’s created the perception that Welshness involves nothing more than pulling on a red shirt  – just another colour in the spectrum of Britishness.

The rugby team however remains rooted in the public psyche in a way the football team, despite their greater success, cannot match.

The main reason for this is that Wales play England at least once every year, and the only time Wales can expect sustained attention in the British media is when their neighbours are involved.

The result is that important issues facing Wales receive little or no attention while Wales’ success and failure as a nation is inextricably bound up in people’s minds with success and failure on the rugby pitch.

It’s a dangerous distraction because it encourages us to blow steam in the wrong direction – usually towards the English Rugby Team –  without doing anything to solve the real economic and social problems facing our country.

This is probably not a problem in the case of countries like New Zealand and Australia, who are already independent.

But perhaps being content to win fake victories on the rugby field isn’t a particularly healthy state of affairs for the poorest nation in western Europe.

Welsh football

So how is the Welsh football team any different? Isn’t it just another sporting distraction?

Perhaps, but at least Wales’ away games take supporters out of familiar surroundings and introduces us to a range of different nations around the world.

In a footballing context, we’re one nation among hundreds rather than just another British colony.

The football team have also put the Welsh language front and centre while it took years to encourage the Welsh rugby union to even bother tweeting bilingually.

There’s also a strong republican vibe. It’s notable that nothing came of the Royal Family’s undignified attempts to attach themselves to the football team’s Euro 2016 success.

The rugby team, one suspects, would have been down to Clarence House before the week was out.

The Welsh FA has also resisted sacrificing what’s best for the Welsh national team for a British team at the Olympics. Again, you get the sense that the WRU would not only have signed up but would have given Chris Coleman a year off for the greater good of managing the British side.

Compared to rugby, the culture surrounding the Welsh Football Team is a breath of fresh air.

In truth, they haven’t even had to do much to make it so. It’s a fan-driven culture that arises naturally from the supporters’ own identity.

The decision to switch off the music and let the fans lead Hen Wlad fy Nhadau tonight is a good example – something the supporters have been calling for.

Whether Wales reach the World Cup in Russia or not, Welsh football has already made us all proud, and showed how us what a national sport looks like.

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    Is this why our top 6 football teams play in English competitions and virtually all our national players do the same?

    • Charlie Medson

      Daft comment. All our top teams play in the English pyramid because Wales has been so intrinsically attached to England for so long that we didn’t even have our own national league until the early 1990’s. And it is common for smaller countries to have their players playing in stronger leagues – Denmark’s winning 1992 Euro team all played outside their own country.

      • It is not a daft comment – it is relevant because the original article tries to make the point that somehow Welsh rugby is tied to the colonial era by only playing former British colonies, yet, as Graham points out, ignores the fact that the top Welsh football clubs only play in English competitions. So it’s worth pointing out the idiocy and hypocrisy of the stance.

        • Did I misunderstand?

          I read the article with reference to the Welsh international team, not the club sides. There can be and is no disputing that the Welsh FA have tapped into and encouraged a sense of Welsh cohesion and pride in our country. From learning the words of the anthem to visiting and paying respects at Aberfan, Chris Coleman and Osian Roberts have built a solid Welsh identity (based in no small part via learning about our history) within the team, and as an extension, within the fans.

          They are Welsh, not British, first and foremost. I can’t imagine any of them bowing to Ich Dien and The Three Feathers. Can you?

          • Yes, you did misunderstand. The original article makes the point that who Wales rugby play every year ties into their Empire/colonial ties. The simple fact is that Wales play the most competitive teams they can and the ones that will generate the most TV and ticket revenue. The Welsh domestic football teams do the same, for the same reasons. The FAW play teams in their qual groups and whatever friendlies they can arrange against generally competitive teams that can also make sure the fixture at least washes it’s face, or at best makes a decent profit for reinvestment.

            Rugby is limited by being a minor world sport compared to football, hence the smaller pool of top teams who do Wales can play – and I will concede it makes it boring at times, but it isn’t any sort of a comment on the WRU’s intentions.

            In summary neither rugby or football is picking its fixtures for any ideological reasons, Graham’s reply was simply making that point.

            The WRU can definitely, definitely up their game. I now see comments saying that was the original intent of the article. If the original article was positive/constructive like that then great, but, as I’ve said elsewhere, trying to use rugby’s lack of international popularity (and other paper thin arguments presented) as another stick to beat the WRU with reveals the article as being much more than just constructive criticism, it just seems to be looking for as many sticks as possible to beat it with.

            “I can’t imagine any of them bowing to Ich Dien and The Three Feathers. Can you?” – who bowed and when? Honestly, I feel for any sportsman who has to subsume his personal beliefs to follow his passion. There will be many – a staunch republican knows that refusing to play with the feathers on his chest means he doesn’t play international rugby for Wales and why should he allow someone else’s choice here to deny him his dream?

            As for none of the Welsh players having any good feelings towards “The Feathers”, etc? Rubbish. For example, we all know many were born and brought up in England. No problem with that – they have identified themselves as Welsh and are proud players for the country. But to pretend they universally all now feel any antipathy or even disinterest towards the country of their birth is just revisionist nonsense. You’ve done what the original article has done – cherry picked aspects of rugby against cherry picked aspects of football to make your point. It wouldn’t surprise me if any Welsh footballer is proud of being British, I am 100% confident that not every single one of them has any issue with being British.

    • I suppose the six of them could play amongst themselves, if we pad it out that whole tournament could last a month.
      How exciting!

      (Do remember they also have the potential to play in the European League too)

    • Dan Lawrence

      Our best 4 teams play in the English leagues, not the top 6. Colwyn Bay would probably struggle to make it into the Welsh Premier and are more like Cymru Alliance level. Merthyr are probably Welsh Premier material, but they wouldn’t be the best team in the league, probably a mid table team. Both would have better opportunities if they came back to Wales. But I can understand why Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Wrecsam play in England.

    • Sorry thats irrational…….what did you expect Graham?….it was a posh English game originally and Wales was an integrated colony of England……..Wales had no choice to play in that league if they wanted established quality leagues

  2. Many in Wales do not grasp at all how wrapped up English Rugby is with a whole lot of negative stuff ie public+grammar schools,class division,”country”sports,Round Table chaps,the Windsors,etc,etc.While these might be historic associations,they haven’t gone away.Elitism is still a big problem for the UK,and particularly England.Communal institutions and attitudes remain stronger in Cymru,just need to get RFU sorted out!

  3. Hello, love the article, however in a previous article lately you were putting the case for the Welsh economy and the possibilities if Independent comparing us to many other countries in Europe. In this article you repeat the notion that Wales is a very poor country, if we want to get away from that mindset and start to believe in our possible economic capacity, shouldn’t we be making more positive noises?

  4. Martin Johnes

    While I’m a football rather than rugby fan, I think you are being hard on rugby. There are plenty of symbols of Welsh nationhood in rugby. It too has the anthem and plenty of emotion. Its players appear to be fiercely Welsh. Most also live here. You see them around the place if you live in Llanelli, Cardiff, Swansea or Newport. They are part of our communities in the way that our football players are not.

    Rugby also faces problems football doesn’t. Its economics are a mess, with the result that attending international games are very expensive. Older, more affluent fans just don’t create the same atmosphere. In contrast, a kids ticket for entry to all five world cup qualifying games worked out at about a fiver a game. International football is just more accessible.

    Fashion doen’t help rugby either. Rugby shirts aren’t cool. No one buys retro rugby shirts. Wearing a present day shirt is naff in a way it’s not in football. This hurts rugby’s finances, visibility and status.

    And then there’s history. Rugby just doesn’t have the base in north Wales that football does. In many ways the rugby team is only representing half the nation.

    Welsh football culture has limits to its desire for independence. Ask any Swansea or Cardiff fan if they want to assert Welsh nationhood and join the Welsh Premier. Even small clubs like Merthyr and Colwyn Bay won’t do it. When the FAW tried to force them to join their national league there was a huge backlash. Plenty of Welsh fans choose to support English clubs too. None of this is a contradiction. Football isn’t all about political symbolism. Someone from Cardiff can support Arsenal rather than the Bluebirds but still believe in Welsh inpendence. You can hate the English football team and still believe Wales’ future is best served within the UK.

    Rugby just hasn’t had to choose between British and Welsh. If it did, I’m sure the WRU would choose Wales. The FAW’s anti Team GB stance shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of Britishness. I’m sure it was for some within the organisation but a British Olympic team is a very real threat to the existence of Wales’ status as an independent football nation. See Standing up against Team GB was primarily a defence of Wales, not an attack on Britishness. Like other British associations, the FAW also defied FIFA to display poppies at a game last year. It has remembered Wales’ place within British history.

    None of this is to detract from what the FAW has done in recent years. It has embraced Welsh culture and the Welsh language. It has made an effort to be more than just a game. The WRU could learn a lot from it.

    • Spot on Martin. This article is risibile – laughable. Disappointing to see that the success of one area of Welsh life always has to succumb to the Welsh disease of seeing the negatives, of pitting one Welsh thing against another into this relatively small country of ours.

    • Decent opening paragraph Martin.

      To address your other points in the following 5 paragraphs –

      International football is accessible in Wales purely due to a pricing strategy that the FAW implemented to put supporter engagement over financial profit. It has worked. Rugby economics are a mess because of the WRU.

      Rugby shirts aren’t cool, but you can just as easily argue that football one aren’t either. Head down to your local nightspot on Saturday night with your football shirt tucked into your jeans and see how much luck you have on the dancefloor. That’s assuming the door staff let you in.

      Rugby doesn’t have the base in the North because football is the true national sport. It spans the nation in terms of engagement and interest.

      The professional Welsh clubs in the English pyramid will never opt to play in the Welsh system purely for financial reasons. They are not clubs owned by rabid Welsh separatists. They are businesses, some of whom with global reach. As you say, football isn’t all about political symbolism, which is correct. The article doesn’t say that it is, but you can’t deny that amount of republican links the current Welsh national team fan culture has. Just go through social media and you’ll find them.

      The FAW’s anti-Team GB stance is not an attack on Britishness, you are correct. However, it was the ultimate assertion of independence as a football nation. The WRU’s logo is intrinsically linked to the English Royal Family. It even says I SERVE on it. In GERMAN.

      Let’s hope our independent football nation wins tonight.

    • Hi Martin. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      The above article isn’t an attack on the players at all. As you say, they are often more rooted in their communities than the football players. As I say in the article: “It has little to do with anything happening on the pitch.”

      I don’t have a bone to pick with the fans either, as I said – I am one!

      It’s more about the WRU’s PR and how they choose to portray Welsh identity on social media, in pre-game shows, advertising, and through other means. It’s not a matter of economics as far as I can tell – in fact, if anything the WRU’s pyrotechnics costs a lot more than anything the Welsh FA does. As you say, the WRU could learn a lot from the Welsh FA in how it has gone about this.

      – Ifan

    • Eryl Vaughan

      You obviously have not been to Parc Eirias recently where Rygbi Gogledd Cymru regularly send the cream of southern Premiership sides home with their tails between their legs! And all in front of a capacity crowd singing “Safwn yn y Bwlch” in Welsh

  5. Pitting two successful Welsh sports against each other, in some sort of “Welshness” competition, is the most small minded thing I think I have ever read on this website.

    • I’m not pitting them against each other at all. As I say, I’m a rugby fan. All I would like to see is the WRU following the Welsh FAs example. – Ifan

      • “Welsh football has shown rugby what a national sport looks like” – one sport shows the other how best to do something. One sport wins the competition in how to do it best. That is definitely pitting one against the other. I don’t see that being a rugby fan excuses you from this interpretation of what you have written.

        Do you know what a positive article would have been? “Look what Welsh Football is doing for this nation”. All of the excellent football stuff you mention in here, wonderful. Instead you felt the need to define that by what you see as rugby’s lack of standing here in this competition to be the most republican, the least British, etc. – Marc

        • If you think constructive criticism is divisive then there’s nothing I can do to help you. The Welsh FA is showing the WRU how to do it better. The WRU needs to up its game. This isn’t divisive, it’s wanting what’s best for our country. If you don’t like that then I’m sorry but that’s my view. – Ifan

          • It isn’t constructive criticism. There is some in there, as with most things it isn’t 100% one or the other, but the overall feeling though is pitting one against the other. When you say things like

            “Most of the teams played on loop every year are former British colonies. They’re bound together by their shared Anglo-Saxon culture and a deference to the British establishment.”

            it doesn’t feel constructive, it feels like a tautological leap to add more wood to your fire. How is Welsh rugby to blame for the lack of rugby being a truly widespread international sport? As with cricket the countries where rugby caught on are the ones it was exported to during Empire and it has, disappointingly, failed to move much beyond that for reasons of popularity, money, etc. We don’t play those teams because they are ex-colonies, we play them because they are, like us, the top teams in the world. If Arg+Georgia move into the top 3 then we’ll be looking for their scalps and getting the TV money from playing those top draws. Until then we play NZ/Aus/SA for the money and the competition.

            There is also your point on the stadium name (please, we know how and why that happened, but let’s not pretend it was because the WRU love a reference to a Principality), the Lions being equated with football team GB, the tired old reach that Welsh people don’t bother with Welsh problems because “As long as we beat the English” in rugby then we’re content. So out of touch with that one. These all feel like wild stabs in the dark to make your point and further make sure the article is more about what Welsh rugby doesn’t do, is wrong about, than any constructive “hey, look how great football is over here” theme that you seem to think you were going for.

            No need to apologise for your views. I disagree with them. We’re discussing that disagreement, seems that is what this site is for to me.

  6. Erthygl wych.

    Shame about the defensive, narrow-minded response. The point of the article, very well made, is that the undeniable institutional ties that exist between the WRU and symbols of Britishness haven’t been developed by the FAW. The FAW has no control over the clubs that play in the English pyramid, so comments on what Swansea, Cardiff et al do are completely irrelevant to the point of the article.

    This isn’t a football is better than rugby article (the author makes it clear that rugby is his preference), but simply an entirely accurate attempt to contrast the institutional ties between the two sports governing bodies.

    • Shame about the bitter “narrow minded” name calling. The point of the article is “Welsh football has shown rugby what a national sport looks like”. That is from the headline. One sport showing the other how to be best at something i.e. one is better than the other at it. There are other quotes I could use to prove the point that it is exactly about Rugby v Football. The author being a rugby fan is irrelevant as this isn’t about which sport is a better sport, but rather which sport is apparently better at being Welsh, where Welsh is defined in this case by republicanism, language, etc. Shame some can’t see beyond their own narrow-minded (sic) prejudices to realise how sad such a divisive interpretation is.

      • I picked up the same sense as you of trying to engage in the usual “either-or” type of debate (things that the BBC like to indulge in from time to time) – pitching Football supporters versus Rugby is daft. If it wasn’t meant that way, then fine, but I’m afraid, that is how I it came across.

        We have two great sports mentioned here, that I love watching and I’m sure the old adage of supporting Wales at Tiddly winks still applies to most of us as well. There are also a lot more nuances to the rugby side of things (ditto football), than the simplistic portrayal depicted – there is a broad church of people involved in the sport.

        • Agreed Trailorboy. As a proper plastic fan (and with a family who have significant involvement with the FAW, so I am proud of what they do) I was looking forward to watching this game tonight. Slightly soured by the regular “see, this is what a proper Welsh supporter looks like” type of nonsense that this article is part of.

  7. The point is about nationhood and language, the Football team have garnered loyal/ passionate support through many diverse areas of Wales whereas the Rugby team squanders their potential.

    The article brushed over the fact the Assembly is a far more recent addition to Cardiff.

    • The rugby team gets huge crowds and has supporters from all over Wales, definitely diverse areas. It isn’t squandering any sort of potential, but I guess it isn’t following a specific model that some would have prescribe for it. By not following that it seems to infuriate/disappoint some who think it could be a vehicle for what they think is important in defining a nation.

      The points of the original article are mostly dull and uninformed ones – for example, equating Team GB at the Olympics to The Lions for example is, I suspect, just twisting the facts to make a point – as, if the author really is a rugby fan, he would understand there is no comparison. The Lions is a model of what the UK should be – equal nations, individual country identity a joyous part of, but not the overriding factor in, the whole venture.

      The Principality stadium – named after the company that sponsors it, as we all know. Annoying, but we need the cold hard cash. FAW are sponsored by McDonald’s and Fosters – junk food and booze. Cash needed.

      I do hate being drawn into this stupidity though – I love rugby, enjoy seeing the football team do well (je suis plastique), hate this depressing Welsh tendency to use the success of one thing to denigrate something else rather than celebrating the overall greatness of having two of the top teams in the world’s biggest sports, and we’re only 3 million!

  8. More tripe to divide us

  9. Pathetic article!! You only have to read the Swansea or Cardiff City messageboards to see much more anti-welsh hatred/bias than you will ever see in Welsh Rugby circles. This site is going downhill & helping to cause division!!!
    PLUS – I bet 75% of those fans who will be singing with gusto tonight, will be wearing English Club tops down the pub next weekend swearing alliegance to Man Utd/Liverpwl, Whoever FC!!

  10. I have never bought the “North Wales doesn’t like Rugby” argument. Pubs are packed for Rugby internationals, and there are plenty of towns where the local Rugby club is bigger than the football team – Llangefni, Nant Conwy, Caernarfon… it depends on the town, just like in South Wales where there are towns where the football is bigger than the Rugby (Barry, Merthyr, Cwmbran), Interest in Pro Rugby below international level is certainly lower, but then this isn’t surprising given that there are no Pro regional teams in the area. RGC1404 get a decent crowd, in fact after Wrexham FC they are the best supported sports team in North Wales. Probably if you polled the whole population and asked them to pick football or Rugby you’d get relatively fewer picking Rugby in the North than the South, but to suggest that “Rugby just doesn’t have the base” and that the Rugby team “represents half the nation” is nonsense.

    The Welsh Rugby team can’t really be blamed either for the fact that Rugby is largely played by former English colonies (for a start, half the world used to be an English colony). This is slowly changing anyway, with the rise of Italy and Argentina in the 1990s and more recently Georgia and Japan. Rugby is also making leaps and bounds elsewhere such as Spain, Brazil and Germany.

    • Martin Johnes

      You are right – I exaggerated the lack of support for rugby in the north and RGC1404 do get good crowds at Stadiwm Zip World. But the % of the crowd at tonight’s game from the north will be far far higher than at any rugby international.

  11. Capitalist and Welshnash

    Hogwash, Charles! Let them have their beer and gladiatorial fun and Disney-levels of Welsh patriotism. They will be back at work in the morning, in jobs created by Her Majesty’s Goverment.

    Dear me, Henry, we cannot encourage Welsh enterprise, those taxed-public sector incomes make Westminster wealthier and Wales lethargic . Good heavens, Henry, we must build another stadium to keep them drunk and dependent upon the public sector. How ever shall we do it when their dear rugby team are flagging?

    Do the Welsh know how to play football, Charles?

    I believe so, they have that fluke fellow Gareth Bally, in Spain.

    Bale, I believe they say it.

    Now do not get bogged down in entertaining Welsh pronunciations, Henry. How do we keep the Welsh drunk and stupid?

    We could advertise the footy more and allow them to sprinkle a few more words of their, erm, language, to charm their, erm, Welsh, erm, Welsh. Yes. And promote alcohol sales by selling it to them via such, erm, channels as BBC Wales under the guise of footy.

    Excellent work Henry, see that it’s done in time for the next World Cup.

    • Thank you Capitalise for pointing out that it is impossible, impossible I tell you, to have concerns about the economy and state of Wales and watch sport/have fun at the same time. Thank you again Welshnash for making sure we all keep on the straight and narrow that you gifted people highlight for us. Whatever would we do without your conspir…. I mean uncanny ability to see through the curtain at this Machiavellian ploy by the English to keep us down. Thank you sir, I’ll go back to my hair shirt just after I’ve finished my birching.

  12. Well done IMJ, you certainly flushed out the segments of Welsh society that live by the mantra ” I’m as good a Welshman as anybody else, see”.

    Having been a keen rugby follower since my teens in early 60’s I have watched the downhill slide of fans’ behaviours especially in the last 20-25 years or so. Drink was always a part of the day out in Cardiff but there has been a massive increase in numbers who are out of their skulls and utterly aggressive by kick off and certainly 2 hours after the match finishes the city centre is like Dodge City. Perversely this behaviour among fans of Wales’ international rugby team resembles the antics of football hooligans at English league club level, the kind of nut jobs that used to form gangs just to go looking for trouble on match days. Cardiff City had such a mob, they may still exist. However at international level the behaviour of the Welsh football fans has been exemplary and defies the old stereotyping, and this helps to create a more positive identity. Long may it last.

    • I wouldn’t stop there Dafis, as you’ve clearly shown he’s also brought out the “disagree with me and it says something about your ‘Welshness'” mob that can’t comprehend dissent in these debates.

      • very touchy there old boy. Rugby has become the haven of selective Welshies, good for wearing a red shirt over a beer gut, pissing on pavements, bits of random wrecking and vandalism, vomiting on trains/buses, and generally doing the image of the nation a fat lot of good. Ask them to do something really useful and you’d be lucky to get a 1 in 10 response on a good day. Try clearing up after yourselves for starters, or is that just a job for council employees !

        • Generalising there Dafis – it is possible for rugby to have fans that are both boorish drunken louts and decent sports fans, without them being all of one or the other. I don’t go to internationals anymore due to the very behaviour you’re discussing but you have to open your eyes and realise that rugby is a much, much wider thing than the odd Wales international match and the cliches you’re putting out.

          • we were talking about internationals – at least that’s where IMJ started the “conversation”. No doubt some of that behaviour I mentioned above would prompt very sharp retribution if it happened at our club grounds, but it has escalated to a point where international match days are to be avoided.

  13. There is good reason why the BBC and Western Mail are so keen to force ‘the national sport’ on us.
    Rugby is seen as an acceptable outlet for Welsh nationalism that is no threat to the established order.
    Before every 6 Nations game the BBC portrays Welsh people as a bunch of happy simpletons in daffodil hats whose only aspiration for our country is to beat England at rugby every 3/4 years.
    It’s a stereotype most Welsh rugby fans are quite happy to encourage.

    Football unites Wales in a way nothing else does.
    At Wales games you see flags from every far flung corner of our country.
    In France we had boys from the Docks standing shoulder to shoulder with Welsh speakers from Gwynedd.
    Where else would you see that?
    Rugby is the sport of the establishment, football the game of the people.

  14. The WRU sell-out the fans by the extortionate prices they charge, doubling them for the likes of England and New Zealand. At least the Welsh FA keep the prices very affordable for all fans!

  15. I find the hysteria and hype surrounding the Wales football team laughable. As someone who has attended over 100 Wales football internationals over the decades I see the influx of plastic fairweather “supporters” as a negative. For example, when we played Scotland at the CCS in a World Cup qualifier in 2012 the stadium wasn’t even sold out! Games against Serbia and Macedonia in the same campaign attracted crowds of 11000 to the CCS.

    Our qualifier against Cyprus for Euro 2016 saw the stadium one third empty. If it weren’t for Bale many of these attendances would be even lower. Recent friendlies against Australia, Norway, Iceland and Ireland were very poorly attended too – despite tickets being £10 for adults.

    I will be at the CCS tonight, surrounded by plastic, fairweather “fans”, many indulging in “I’m Welsher than you” one-upmanship. There are plastic fans all over the world, of course, but the cringeworthy efforts of the fake news media to jump on the “don’t take me home” bandwagon merely to market a lamentable version of “I was there” Weshness is an insult to the real Wales fans – and there are less than 10,000 of us,

    • Now that’s an awesome sport – one that doesn’t want any new fans. No sir. We were here first and we’re not going to put up with any of you who think just buying a ticket qualifies you to think you can just turn up. We like our crowds small, bitter and insular!

      • No. I just wished they’d turned up in the bad days rather than crowing about their new found love of Welsh “soccer”. Facebook is full of idiots – some are even my family members – who have suddenly become ardent Wales fans. If you were a real fan, used to seeing crushing defeats in near empty stadia, you’d get it.

        As the real fans used to chant in the less-than-full CCS: “loyal supporters…..loyal supporters….”

        To all the plastics out there: I really am Welsher than you because I got off my behind and paid to see my country’s team when they were shit.

        “Where were you when we were shit?”


        • They can’t go back in time. At some point you bought your first ticket, now some of them are buying theirs. Real fans welcome new fans, delighted their sport/club/team is attracting new interest. The type of “fan” who desperately wants to feel special by belittling others interest, just because he doesn’t like that his team is now popular, is no fan at all as they deny their team and sport the chance to grow and prosper.

          As has been mentioned on here, the Welsh football supporters are generally a great bunch who did a lot across Europe to bury the notion that football fans are a belligerent lot. Hopefully they’ll drown out the bitter noise from the minority like you – and have no doubt, luckily your sort are in the minority.

          • Bright, brighty plastic. Shiny, bright red plastic. When all is said and done, plastics gonna plastic.

            When we are shit again, – again – i will be there but you will be in your mam’s basement watching rugby. See i don’t care too much about winning or losing, unlike most plastics. It is the “supporting my country” that counts.

            • Enjoy your bitter chips there Bluebird. I’ll enjoy knowing that your evening is spoiled by the sheer amount of people now enjoying it. It’s clear that you can’t wait for Wales to fail so they can be yours and only yours to watch again. You’re as far from a real fan as can possibly be, you don’t support, you just want to control and own to the detriment of the team you pretend to care about. Tragic. But, in the minority, a teeny tiny insignificant minority, thankfully.

              • I may have disagreed with you earlier ( see somewhere up above in these comments) but hell’s teeth, people are entitled to follow a team as and when it pleases them or when they are attracted by Success.

                Is Bluebird trying to claim that “new” supporters are in some way inferior to those who did plod through those painful years ?. He should rejoice that newer fans have at last been attracted by the quality of the show being put on by this current crop of players. So few of them are “stars” – Bale, Ramsey, Allen are the ones that ring bells for me – but collectively they are all shining right now, a squad of 18 or so with one or two extras flitting in and out with worthy cameos in some of the matches and interesting new bloods showing up in their teens.

                The trick here, like it was for Welsh rugby in the 70’s, or even Gatland’s Grand Slams, is to keep producing the goods so that punters want to spend their hard earned wages going to matches. It’s a big ask, but fans may stay with the team even if they slip up tonite as long as the pick up quickly and put a good run together for the 2020 Euros.

                It’s not a matter of “when we’re shit again” because if we’re that bad then support can’t be taken for granted. Teams do ebb and flow but the speed with which they recover is key to keeping up the momentum of support and that is good for morale in the squad and the support.

                • Stick to what you know Dafis – sucking up to Jac and McEvoy. In many recent games – prior to Euro 2016 – Wales have had less than 10000 watching them at the stadium. This was a pretty ill-informed piece from IMJ. If, less than five years ago, only 0.2% of Wales’ population could be bothered to turn up and pay £10 then the recent self-congratulatory patriotism and nationalism in football can’t be explained by anything other than inadequate plastics hitching their egos to the suddenly-successful football team in an attempt to bask in the reflected glory. Utterly contemptible and if people think that this is the answer to a lack of interest in the national movement then wait until we are shit again and watch it fade away. And by the way I am a member of Plaid who wants independence NOW outside of the EU.

                  • success attracts followers, supporters call them whatever you like. If you find their presence so utterly offensive then perhaps you should consider locking yourself away in a dark room until it’s all over. You certainly sound like someone who needs quite radical therapy for your condition.
                    I might find common ground with you on that political stance stance of yours, but would probably heed James Connolly’s advice to his colleagues in 1916 !

                    • No, success attracts plastics who want to pretend they are successful by following a successful team.

                  • “Stick to what you know…” sounds like the last resort of those who can’t argue their way out of a wet paper bag. As for sucking up, well agreeing or having common ground with anyone is probably an alien experience for you, you sad little W***er.

                    Follow your logic through to its ultimate destructive conclusion and our national team will only be watched by a cluster of like minded muppets feeding off each others’ pleasure in failure. So climb down off your self inflicted cross and start enjoying the company of converts many of whom have enjoyed the round ball for ages and have now discovered that the national team brings much more joy that the antics of Premiership. Long may it last.

                    • Err no the “last resort of those who can’t argue their way out of a wet paper bag” is to start throwing insults about – like you have! You must smell of shit, old man, from burrowing so deep into Jac and McEvoy’s bumholes.

                      If following the Wales team is such a pure expression of nationalism then why did hardly anyone, except for the true supporters, do it until recently? The answer is that shallow bandwagon-jumpers epitomise much that is wrong with our country. You will find that the McEvoy bandwagon will fall apart soon too. Who will you misplace your faith in next? Father Chwistmas?

              • Au contraire my none-too-bright plastic keyboard warrior. I will enjoy tonight, win or lose, more than the plastics because i was there when we were shit. In my opening post i said that i find people like you laughable – sell outs with less substance than one of Gareth Southgate’s farts.

                • Too late Bluebird, you’ve outed yourself as someone who can’t enjoy yourself unless it’s only amongst your “real” fans, a country hating loon who wants his team to remain small and unloved. That’s not support, that’s domestic abuse.

                  • I am a devoted Wales supporter and long-term Plaid campaigner. I just hate plastic fake pretend nationalists and glory hunters who hold back our nation.

                    • Nope, you’re not a supporter, you’re there for yourself, not your team, who happily welcome the widest support possible. You believe that only a specific set of people should be allowed to support your team, providing they pass your tests for what is a real supporter. You have made up some term for this, “plastics”, so can justify your insularity to yourself. You try and hide this by pretending you care about Wales, by being a Plaid campaigner, when you have contempt for the majority of Welsh people because they were not sitting with you and your tiny band on the terraces of some foreign football match back in 06. Such division tries to hold back our country but it will fail because, as now repeated for the umpteenth time, you’re in such a tiny minority with your hilariously self aggrandising views that it is all ineffectual.

                    • go to the dark room and lie down, but don’t take any substances in there with you !

                    • I haven’t made up tbe term “plastics” at all. It is a long-standing designation for shallow glory-hunters such as yourself.

  16. Well done Nation Cymru….you have just alienated two thirds of the Welsh population and ensured that this site is never read by more than 100 odd people. i HAD HIGH HOPES FOR THIS SITE BUT IT’S FAST BECOMING THE Daily Express of Wales…..the articles are becoming pathetic, and driving people away from our cause!

    • What is “our cause”, Daiboy?

      • I would imagine it is, as the football team say, “Together Stronger”.

        Daiboy is right, this sort of “debate” just does the opposite. “You like rugby? Let me tell you why that makes you an Imperial Empire supporter who’d happily bow and kiss the three feathers while outrageously always drunk; you don’t even understand the consequences of what you’re supporting because you’re not educated like me…..”, etc. ad nauseum. Most of which is from the comments, not the article itself.

      • Indy Wales….for me!

      • ….and the preservation & enhancement of Welsh Language and culture!

  17. …….just look at the fighting on the facebook page between Rugby vs Football lot, on this article! :'(

  18. As someone who’s followed rugby and football at club and international level for over 50 years I’d like to make my contribution.

    First, rugby. Welsh rugby, at the highest level, has always been stuffed with Masonic/Imperialist/Unionist blazer-wearers whose ambition for the game in Wales was to be as near as possible a mirror image to the game in southern and public school England. An unrealistic ambition given that the game in Wales had been adopted by the industrial working classes, certainly in the south.

    The game had also been adopted by the industrial working classes in northern England, but the WRU still preferred to identify, unrealistically, with the toffs of the Home Counties. This cringe factor exposed with the formation of Rugby League – which my father always called ‘Northern Union’ – when Welsh rugby, despite having far more in common with northern England, stayed true to amateurism and the aforementioned toffs.

    This led to decades of hypocrisy, ‘boot money’, shamateurism, players ‘going North’ and trips to Apartheid South Africa.

    This is not to deny the grass-roots support for the game, though this is waning. As someone who ‘was there’ when Llanelli beat the All Blacks in 1972 I can state with confidence that that kind of enthusiasm bordering on hysteria is gone forever. Maybe it’s due to over-exposure on television, the World Cup, the WRU trying to shoe-horn in too many money-making matches, or the loss of the industrial base, I don’t know, but it’s gone.

    What I do know is that the crowd for a rugby international nowadays contains many thousands of people that don’t follow their local team and know nothing about the game. For too many people a rugby international in Cardiff – or even an away game – is a chance to have a day out, dress up in stupid costumes and get drunk. The rugby is almost incidental.

    If you want to judge the health of the game in Wales, then look at attendances at ‘regional’ level. Well below those in Ireland, England and France, with Scotland catching us up. Parc y Scarlets, capacity 15,000, and opened in 2008, has never had a full house.

    Turning to football, this has always been the ‘national game’ in that it has been popular in every corner of the country. It has played second fiddle to rugby for two very simple reasons: one, until very recently we have been more successful at rugby than football; two, the WRU has always had more influence with the ‘Welsh’ media than the FAW.

    And class played a part, or perceptions of class. Even borrowed perceptions. I say that because for too many in Wales rugby has served as an arena where we ‘umble Taffs could mix on an equal footing with our masters. Sad, really, because those who have so enjoyed this temporary elevation have otherwise been quite content to see Wales inferior in almost every sphere.

    Football belongs to a wider world than post-imperial Britain and her former colonies. This I think explains why the FAW is less deferential, less of a national embarrassment than the WRU. The superior appeal of football is represented in attendances at club games, at all levels. And most significantly of all, in the crowds attending international games. I would bet my house that the average fan at tonight’s game will know more about his sport than the average fan at a rugby international knows about rugger. It could be that the average football fan also knows more about rugby.

    Times are changing. Rugby, with its increasing emphasis on ‘upper-body strength’ and ‘big hits’, resulting in head injuries and abominations such as the driving maul is losing ground to football. There’d be no place for Phil Bennett or Gerald Davies in the modern game. If it’s not careful, then rugby in Wales could go the same way as cricket.

    For in my younger days I also used to go down St Helen’s to watch Glamorgan, I can remember being there in a 20,000 crowd. But it was all ditched so that Glamorgan County Cricket Club could become Cardiff City Cricket Club and build a new stadium to host England Test Matches. This explains why Wales has no national cricket team. It’s no coincidence that arch-Unionist Wilf Wooller played cricket and rugby. The links between the two go deep, explained by the shared political sentiments.

    Welsh football is riding the crest of a wave at the moment and if Welsh rugby doesn’t get its act together then it will be eclipsed, irreversibly eclipsed. Partly for the reasons I’ve given but also because football is intrinsically more attractive.

    Given the choice between watching 20-stone Humpie van der Merve fall over the line for a try, or gasp as Leo Messi beats five defenders and the goalie to put the ball in the top corner, which will your average five-year-old want to watch, and emulate? Boy or girl.

    The respective attitudes of the FAW and the WRU towards Team GB and the British & Irish Lions sums up the fundamental difference between the two, and increasingly, the games they govern. Ruby the Brit game; soccer the world game. Which might explain why an increasing number of Welsh people prefer football over rugby.

    A very healthy sign.

    • I think my little one would opt for watching 20-stone Humpie van der Merve fall over the line every time to be honest, especially if it means making someone called Morris Oxford with a red rose look like a bit of a clown.

  19. Stealing a line here = “Win or lose we show what a tiny nation we are by continually having this debate”

  20. I like both sports…….but I know both sports were created by the elites of English empire…….because I read history books

    Wales is one of the WORST places to sell itself………….it has an older type of rugby game called CNAPAN….that only died cos the daft Welsh listened to churches demonising it

    Its still played in Pembrokeshire today 🙂

  21. Robert Williams

    A thoughtful contribution from Royston Jones – some uncomfortable truths there. I wonder if the greater input from North Wales goes some way to account for the healthier attitudes manifested by the FAW as compared with the WRU, especially towards the language?

  22. Tame Frontiersman

    Of rugby union and politics, the image that speaks to me most powerfully is that of Nelson Mandela wearing a green and gold Springboks jersey and S.A. cricket cap presenting the Rugby World Cup in 1995 to Francois Pienaar, captain of the victorious South African team: a team that had only one black player – Chester Williams.

    Nelson Mandela understood the political impact sport can have:

    “Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair….”

  23. Talking of winning or losing. In 2016, the Men’s Welsh Street Homeless Football team winning the Homeless World Cup and were semi finalists this year. In 2017, the Women’s Welsh Street Homeless Football team won the Homeless World Cup. Thier only income is via grant making trusts and the Lottery. They are a huge credit to them themselves and to Wales …. never mind not having an open top bus ride through Cardiff, these players have no homes. And as for the FAW, they do sterling work …. I just wish when they made players, who are representing Wales on a global platform, wear suits by a Welsh Designer and in Welsh Wool, And as for the WRU, words fail me. Whilst they play under a banner that pledges allegience to the Monarch’s son, they should be boycotted ~ an act I feel would stimulate a nation wide independence debate, the like of which we have never seen. And anyone who cheers them on or supports them, whilst wearing those feathers, clearly is not a supporter of Wales and, at heart, is a Unionist.

  24. To me this is not about relative success on the pitch The point I think the author was making was about the respective organisations branding and communications.
    The WRU have always loved their english royals and Military. That’s a fact and has always made me uncomfortable. The media and fans also fixated on 6 Nations in particularly beating England and I have been previously guilty of that.

    The FAW were slow to embrace professional sport management . They also didn’t have the turnover, staff, contacts and media that Rugby did. As a committed Barry Town fan, if you followed their fumbling in 2013 with dealing with Barry Town, you saw how amateur the committee still were. (and that’s why I stopped going to International games during that period (not because they weren’t successful.) I was bitter with the FAW.

    At some point soon after 2013 the FAW started to get their act together and they branding and communications starting reflecting a much bolder, more confident Welsh identity. The fans who many already felt that way, loved this approach and FAW have won many over since. This to me is part of the reason that the national football team is so much more attractive than anything the WRU currently touches.

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