Should all of Wales’ football clubs play in Welsh leagues?
“Just saying that you have to be aware that supporting one of 5 clubs who play in England is effectively the same as supporting an English side.”
I’m sure you can imagine that this is a quote from a Tweet I saw yesterday didn’t go down very well. However, it definitely got me thinking about the state of Welsh club football.
This is merely my opinion but I am looking at this from both the perspective of someone who supports a Welsh club in the Welsh pyramid and someone who supports a Welsh club in the English pyramid.
But first, some history and context on the matter. There are currently five Welsh clubs in the English football pyramid. Cardiff City, Swansea City (EFL Championship), Newport County (EFL League 2), Wrexham (National League) and Merthyr Town (Southern Football League).
All of these clubs have played in the English league system since their founding, and all declined to join the newly formed League of Wales (now the Cymru Premier) when it was formed in 1992.
The reason for these clubs playing in setups across the border is simple, there wasn’t a professional football league in Wales. England already had the professional set up so joining makes perfect sense in terms of making money.
Money is what ultimately keeps these clubs playing in England, the FAW simply cannot compete with how huge club football is there compared to what we have now and what was formed in 1992.
It is undeniable that the fans of those five clubs make up a massive bulk of Wales fans home and away. We play our games in Cardiff City’s stadium, you see so many flags of these clubs at matches, singing and chanting their hearts out, very important bricks in the Red Wall you could say.
So you can say these fans are the same as someone who supports Chelsea or Manchester United despite living up the back end of the Rhondda if you want, but I can’t agree.
So should all Welsh clubs play in Wales? In an ideal world, yes. Personally, I would love to see a thriving Welsh set up with as many clubs playing, including the ones playing in England as we speak.
But the world is far from ideal. The Welsh five in England have always played there, and their finances are built around it. To suddenly put them into our pyramid would hammer then, especially the three currently in the EFL.
A case can be made for Wrexham and Merthyr to join as they are both in the English non-league setup.
The Cymru Premier is often compared to be the same level as the National League in terms of skill, but the latter receives higher attendances than the Welsh league.
Factor in the cash provided to the Gog’s from their Hollywood owners, I don’t think you’ll see it. Merthyr aren’t as lucky to have Deadpool and Mac in the boardroom, so could the Martyr’s make the switch?
I know town fans in favour and against, and they seem to be the most probable club to switch, but only time can tell I suppose.
The way I see it, you’d be asking a lot of a fan who is used to trips to the likes of Bristol, Birmingham, Bolton or any of the many clubs you’d come up against watching the five Welsh clubs in the EFL and non-league.
Going from the Severnside derby to Llandudno away sounds like a crazy suggestion to many. But you don’t have a leg to stand on if you’re going to slate the Cymru Premier and below just because you don’t want to see your club there.
It’s far from tinpot, and games aren’t watched exclusively by one man and his dog. Caernarfon’s Cofi Army are proof that amazing atmospheres happen in the Welsh pyramid.
Pyro, drums, non-stop chants, celebrating goals against Bangor like they’ve just seen a Champions League winning goal. Even in the lower tiers, get a few mates together, get to your local and make the atmosphere.
Not only will you love it as a fan, players appreciate it at the lower tiers so much more. The 12th man gets thrown about a lot when talking about football, being it yourself and seeing the difference it makes is just one of many reasons why it’s called the beautiful game.