FAW under fire over shake up of the women’s game in Wales
Abergavenny WFC, the fourth most successful team in the history of the Welsh Woman’s Premier League, will drop into the second tier following the announcement of a new pyramid structure introduced by the FAW from next season.
The shake-up features eight teams in Tier 1, including TNS, which doesn’t currently have a women’s side and the introduction of new regional Tier 2 leagues in the north and south.
A new U19s league in north and south Wales will also be set up under the plans.
The FAW’s application process for the new league involved two stages, an initial licence award where clubs provided evidence to show that they met the minimum criteria for each level, followed by clubs presenting their development plan to a panel of FAW, FAW Trust and FIFA experts who assessed clubs across seven key areas.
Nation.Cymru understands Abergavenny fell at this hurdle as they were judged to be “over reliant” on grant money and “there was not enough evidence they could develop players at an elite level” despite being one of the most competitive sides in Wales over the last 10 years.
Briton Ferry and Cascade will also drop in the second tier as Barry Town join TNS in the top-flight.
The FAW Wales confirmed plans to restructure of the women’s game in May last year and received applications from 37 teams for places in the top tiers.
Reacting to today’s announcement, Briton Ferry described being placed in the second tier as “enforced relegation” and confirmed they had written to the National Game Board, questioning the decision to relegate all three teams, describing the move as “unjust, ethically wrong and, in our opinion, discriminatory in favour of the other clubs.”
A club statement added: “From the outside looking in, the whole process lacks credibility and is a consequence of a dated proposal created by the previous regime. Surely, it would have been prudent to suspend the restructure until the current FAW members implement their own strategy.
“Sport is about level playing fields. What is the future of ladies’ football in Wales? If success is determined by decisions made in the boardroom of the FAW and not on playing fields across Wales?”
Abergavenny WFC said it was “saddened” by the decision, adding: “This is an unfair process which we feel is unclear and not transparent.
“Along with our fellow WPWL teams that competed in the 2021 season, we’ve all shown the women’s game in Wales is on a very strong footing. To now to see the hard work of some of those clubs be recklessly thrown away in the upcoming restructure by the FAW goes against everything a competitive sport deserves and stands for.”
Under the new structure, the top tier will remain a national league run by the FAW, with the champions qualifying for the Women’s Champions League. Below the regional second tier leagues, the third and fourth tiers will become recreational leagues, run by area associations.
- Aberystwyth Town
- Barry Town United
- Cardiff City
- Cardiff Met University
- Pontypridd Town
- Port Talbot Town
- Swansea City
- The New Saints
Tier 2 North:
- Airbus UK Broughton
- Connah’s Quay Nomads
- Denbigh Town
- Llanfair United
Tier 2 South:
- Briton Ferry Llansawel
- Caldicot Town
- Cardiff Bluebelles
- Cascade YC
- Merthyr Town
- Swansea University
Lowri Roberts, FAW’s Head of Women’s Football, said: “It’s been inspiring to see the level of work clubs have put into their application. We’ve seen a real shift in mindset from the clubs in how they are developing elite environments for players and how they are building for a sustainable future.
“Through implementing an open application process for entry into the new leagues, a club’s place was not solely down to sporting merit but also robust club structures. It has made clubs review their entire structure, playing pathways and the provision they provide players. As a result, all clubs will be collectively striving to continuously improve standards in a competitive environment.”