Drakeford rules out allowing fans to attend the biggest game in Caernarfon Town’s history
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
The First Minister has shut the door on any prospect of fans attending Caernarfon Town’s biggest match in years – despite the situation being branded a ‘farce’ by one MS.
With the winners qualifying for European competition and receiving a six figure sum just for reaching UEFA’s Europa Conference League, Saturday will see the Canaries host Newtown in a vital play-off final.
But after the domestic league was omitted from the hosting of any ‘test events,’ ministers have been urged to allow at least some fans into the Oval amid the “crazy” scenario that supporters are allowed to congregate in pubs but not in the outdoor setting of Caernarfon’s ground.
Pressing the First Minister on Wednesday, North Wales MS Llyr Huws Gruffydd, pointed to recent test events at Newport and Swansea – who both play in the English pyramid – but accused the Government of “ignoring” teams playing in the domestic top-flight.
“The clubs playing in the English pyramid system don’t represent grass-roots football in Wales, and piloting events in the Cymru Premier league, for example, would be far more relevant to teams across Wales,” he said.
“And, isn’t it a farce that Welsh premier supporters have to cram into pubs to watch games, or indeed to watch them from the clubhouse overlooking the field, rather than doing that from the stands, in the open air, with social distancing?
“It’s not too late, of course, to change that. So, will you reconsider allowing some supporters to attend the final, crucial game of the season between Caernarfon and Newtown this Saturday—the biggest game in the history of Caernarfon football club?”
But in response, Mr Drakeford said it would be “impossible” to arrange another test event at such short notice, claiming that months of planning had gone into those already arranged which include Wales’ send-off against Albania at Cardiff City Stadium on June 5, in front of 6,500 fans, before jetting off to the Euro 2020 tournament.
“There were practical considerations when we made the choice of where the pilots could be held. There is a great deal of work behind the pilots,” the First Minister said.
“It’s impossible just to say, ‘Well, on Saturday, something else can take place.’ Public Health Wales is part of every pilot. Local authorities are part of every pilot event. Whatever we use for the pilots, the local groups are part of that pilot as well.
“So, it wasn’t practically possible to hold a pilot in every place and for everything, and to do so safely.
“That’s why we’ve had a list of five pilot events and that’s why we’re going to learn the lessons from those to see whether we can do more in future, but to do that in a way that is safe for the people who attend the events and that is successful for those people who run those events too.”
Such is the strength of feeling in Caernarfon that the local Senedd Member, Sian Gwenllian, wrote to ministers earlier this week to request that a limited number of supporters be allowed entry to the Oval and trial new protocols ahead of the new league season in August.
Having never qualified for Europe before, she described the match as the “most important game in Caernarfon Town’s history,” with the club urging supporters to lobby the Welsh Government but stressing that no tickets could be made available at this stage.
Siân Gwenllian MS and Hywel Williams MP said in a joint statement: “This is very disappointing news and a real blow to the enthusiastic and committed fans of Caernarfon Town, who have stood by the club faithfully through some pretty hard times and who will now sadly, miss out on the most important game in the club’s history.
“Had the Welsh government been willing from the outset to work with the club and others to overcome some of the practical barriers to permit entry to the ground, then this disappointment could have been avoided.
“This is an illogical decision. We hope fans will be compensated by a win on Saturday, and we wish the Club the very best against Newtown in this important play-off final.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.