Could the time be right to return to an 18-team Welsh Premier League?
Leigh Williams believes the time could be right to return to an 18-team Welsh Premier League

Ten years to the day that clubs voted to reduce the Welsh Premier League from 18 to 12 teams, one of the original decision makers believes it could be time for a rethink.

Leigh Williams represented Prestatyn Town at the WPL’s annual general meeting in Llandrindod Wells on June 13, 2009, where clubs came out strongly in favour of the Super 12 plan.

At the end of 2009/10, the bottom five clubs – Connah’s Quay, Porthmadog, Welshpool Town, Caersws and Cefn Druids – were relegated, as well as sixth place Rhyl, the champions of the previous season, after failing to secure a domestic licence.

The 12-team WPL format has remained ever since, Bangor City topping the first new-look table in 2010-11 prior to The New Saints going on to win the next eight championships.

Prestatyn were one of the original clubs to back the reduced membership plan.

“The FAW wanted to do a big cull and it was originally going to be cut down to 10 teams,” said former Prestatyn CEO and club secretary Williams.

“Eventually they settled on 12. We’d finished fourth bottom the season before, but we, along with the majority of clubs, voted in favour even though it was a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas in our case.

“I think most saw the bigger picture and thought it would be for the good of Welsh football.

“We stayed up comfortably the following (2009-10) season and also signed Gareth Wilson, Paul O’Neil, Andy Moran and Steve Roberts, so it was a big season on and off the field for us.”

Williams believes the Super 12 has been an overall success.

“The league’s become very competitive, which I think was one of its aims, but it’s also improved the standard of tier two in the north.

“There are six or seven ex-Welsh Premier teams in the (Championship) north now and any of us are capable of going up.

“We’ve seen many welcome changes on and off the field, some clubs have become community hubs, which is great.”

On the current state of the Welsh Premier, Williams added: “The fact there are four places in Europe for a league of 12 teams is a really good thing.

“If you finish in the top six your place is guaranteed for the next season and you’ll get a shot at Europe, although on the downside once you’re in the top six (for the second phase) there’s no pressure on you to win another game as you’re sure to be in the play-offs, so that takes some edge off it.

“I also think Welsh Premier teams entering the Irn-Bru Cup is a great idea, something different. If we could get more teams into that, all the better. Clubs would enjoy trips to Scotland and would get good home attendances through visiting fans.”

However, for all the positives Williams sees in the present WPL format, he thinks a return to a top flight of 18 teams could be the next step forward.

“There was one (Welsh Premier) season where we played Bangor City six or seven times, which was probably a bit much from the fans’ point of view. This can happen when you’ve only got 12 teams.

“It could be time to look at going back to 18 teams. Tier two and three have improved to a degree where we could now realistically have an 18-team Welsh Premier again.

“I think the FAW should review it; perhaps do a feasibility study now that we’ve had 10 years of the current system.”

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