Women’s football in North Wales set for a major shake-up

Bethel and Llanfair battled their hearts out to be crowned North Wales Women’s League Division One champions – but still the issue of who has won the title drags on

Women’s football in North Wales is set for a major shake-up.

Plans are in the pipeline to establish a new North Wales Coast Women’s Football League this season.

If the move goes ahead, it would mean the current North Wales Women’s Football League would split – with the North East Wales clubs becoming a separate entity.

Last season saw a new-look North Wales Women’s League accommodate two divisions for the first time, containing eight teams in Division One and seven in Division Two.

A new committee had taken over in summer 2018 after the previous campaign saw the Football Association of Wales suspend the league for its refusal to admit a side named Rhyl Development.

The team had won all relevant appeals to compete, yet the league still blocked its entry on the basis if Rhyl’s first team got relegated from the Welsh Premier, it would come up against its Development side in the NWWFL – a scenario not permitted under football rules.

The FAW suspended the league and took over its management for the rest of the season. Rhyl Development were admitted and completed most of their fixtures.

Ironically, Rhyl did finish bottom of the Welsh Premier last season, but avoided relegation as no team from the north applied to come up.

Last season saw the North Wales Women’s League run largely by North East Wales based officers.

The North Wales Coast FA council discussed during the season whether this was fair, and given the make-up of the NWWFL, whether the formation of a coast league might serve women’s teams in their region better.

Of the 15 clubs that competed in the NWWFL in 2018-19, 10 were from the coast and four from the north east, while Llanfair United are Central Wales based.

From the coast were: Amlwch Town, Bethel, Bethesda Athletic, Denbigh Town, Kinmel Bay, Mountain Rangers, Penrhyn Bay, Prestatyn, Pwllheli and Rhyl Development.

North East Wales were represented by: Airbus, Corwen, Northop Hall and Wrexham.

NWCFA officers called a meeting this week to which representatives of all coast women’s teams were invited. Six turned up, three did not, but two have shown a “follow-up interest”, while Prestatyn have disbanded.

NWCFA general secretary Alun Foulkes said: “The clubs that were present gave us the go ahead to explore the setting up of a North Wales Coast Women’s League.

“If we receive the FAW’s blessing, then we will look to establish this league in the forthcoming 2019-20 season. We’ve also had interest in forming a Women’s Vets league for six teams playing on a seven-a-side basis.

“Our council felt it would be viable to set up a coast league given the majority of teams currently playing in the North Wales League are from the coast.

“At present you have teams like Amlwch having to travel long distances to places like Wrexham. It would make things much easier if we had a league just for teams from the coast.”

The 2018-19 North Wales Women’s Football League season began smoothly, but ended in a shambles.

Fixtures were well on course to be completed on time, so much so that hard-working league secretary Huw Jones introduced a Supplementary Cup for teams whose seasons may end unusually early.

However, a proliferation of postponements, partly due to the weather, but also down to certain teams pulling out of games right, left and centre left the league with a late-season backlog.

A thrilling battle for the Division One title ended in farce when Kinmel Bay refused to play their final fixture away to Llanfair in May.

Llanfair needed to win the match 4-0 to take the title on goal difference. However, the deadline to complete the fixture passed and left the destiny of the championship in limbo.

Previous unplayed games during the season had resulted in a 2-0 concession. Had that applied to Llanfair, they would have lost out on GD.

The league’s committee decided to award Llanfair a 2-0 win, the Powys club appealed to the NEWFA, and they, as per FIFA ruling, granted a 3-0 victory.

This meant both Bethel and Llanfair finished level on points and GD.

Bethel had scored the more goals, but under the current NWWFL rule-book, being amended for next season, ‘goals scored’ was not a factor in deciding league placings. This will be the case next season, assures secretary Jones. However. ‘goals scored’ does apply under FIFA rules! So inconsistency in decision-making has not helped here.

So the latest NEWFA ruling means the championship is shared.

Both Bethel and Llanfair now have the right to appeal to the FAW so the saga drags on.

Wrexham were promoted to Division One on the back of a 2-0 concession

In Division Two, Bethesda clinched the title with 10 straight wins, but failed to play their final fixture against Wrexham.

To seal promotion, Wrexham had to win that game. The league awarded them a 2-0 victory which ensures they elevate to Division One (if that still exists) next season.

The Supplementary Cup also became a shambles when Caernarfon Town were unable to raise a team for their Group A final against Pwllheli, so the game was scrapped.

Mr Foulkes said that to date, he believes not a single trophy has been presented to a winning club in the North Wales Women’s League from the 2018-19 campaign.

He says council members feel the way ahead for the North Wales coast is to form its own women’s league.

“Depending on how many teams we get, we’re looking at forming two divisions of six,” he said. “We don’t want a situation where teams are losing by cricket scores.”

The NWCFA will now seek FAW approval.

Meanwhile, the NEWFA are less than happy about the plan to divide the current set-up.

@NEWalesFA said on Twitter: “This Evening North Wales Coast organise a meeting with their ladies clubs to form a breakaway league form the N/W Women’s league. The result of this will likely mean N/W Vets clubs not being able to enter the NEW Vets League and no Girls team entering NWC League.”
And @GarethH04231834 added: “Unity not division. Survival and growth of the game depends on working together, I very much hope the factions see sense before it’s too late. @FAWales must take note.”

While Prestatyn have disbanded, new teams NFA, Holywell Town and Llanberis have formed, while Caernarfon Town, who pulled out of the Welsh Premier last season and played just one Supplementary Cup tie in the NWWFL, will aim to start again.

This is the current state of play regarding the two Associations and the teams qualifying to play under their banner.

North Wales Coast FA (12)

Amlwch Town
Bethesda Athletic
Caernarfon Town
Denbigh Town
Kinmel Bay
Mountain Rangers
Penrhyn Bay
Rhyl Development

North East Wales FA (5)

Holywell Town
Northop Hall

Central Wales FA

Llanfair United

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