Every year they are a major talking point in Welsh football.
Their outcomes can put a club on cloud nine or into the depths of despair.
If you are successful, you can compete in the Welsh Premier League and Europe, but if you fail it is back to the drawing board and you either remain at, or drop into, lower level football.
We are talking Club Licensing – the golden ticket to play at the highest standard of Welsh domestic soccer.
What is a Club Licence?
The proposal of a Club Licensing system within the member nations of UEFA was first presented in Autumn 2000.
UEFA proposed a model European standard for football and after consultation with those nations, the final UEFA proposals were approved in 2002.
The Football Association of Wales produced its own Club Licensing Manual, which was accredited by UEFA in June 2003.
The focus and aim is establishing a higher set of standards within Welsh domestic football, which subsequently benefits all concerned in the football community, from spectators to stakeholders and players to physiotherapists.
The standards are presented in the form of five criteria headings:
Sporting (Youth and Coaching)
Personnel & Administration
In October 2006, a second FAW UEFA Club Licensing Manual was accredited after UEFA decided that the system needed to be improved and the criteria made even more stringent.
All Welsh Premier League clubs have undergone the licensing process since the 2003/2004 season with the first licensed clubs announced in April 2004.
Clubs can apply for two licences: the FAW Tier 1 Licence – a prerequisite for participation in the JD Cymru Premier; and a UEFA licence – a mandatory qualification to compete in European matches.
Over the years, the amount of clubs applying for licences has steadily risen.
Twenty-six clubs initially applied for the FAW Tier 1 Licence for the 2020/21 season. In addition to the current 12 JD Cymru Premier clubs, 14 tier 2 clubs applied.
Some of these were later withdrawn.
Who decides on licence applications?
Two separate independent bodies made up of two different sets of people are involved in the process.
The First Instance Body initially assess the applications.
This year they met on April 6 and the following clubs were turned down: Airbus UK Broughton (UEFA & Tier 1), Newtown (UEFA only), Cefn Druids (Tier 1), Flint Town United (Tier 1), Prestatyn Town (Tier 1) and Swansea University (Tier 1).
Unsuccessful clubs can appeal and these are heard by the also independent FAW Club Licensing Appeals Body.
They sat on April 29 and the following clubs were successful with their appeals: Airbus UK Broughton, Cefn Druids, Flint Town United and Newtown.
Prestatyn Town and Swansea University were unsuccessful and are therefore unable to participate in Tier 1.
This marks the end of the process from the FAW point of view.
Rejected clubs cannot take the matter any further within the FAW system.
Dissatisfied clubs can pursue legal action – Prestatyn Town are currently considering this – but success is by no means guaranteed.
The FAW do not publicly announce the specific reasons for failed applications.
Who are the First Instance Body and FAW Club Licensing Appeals Body?
Up to eight people can sit on these bodies. There will usually be two legal and two financial experts. A former footballer and county court judge have sat on recent panels.
All receive fees paid from a Uefa budget. The First Instance and Appeals bodies are the only FAW boards which are independent.
Who is the Club Licensing Manager?
He is Steven Jones, who is based at FAW HQ in Cardiff.
Mr Jones works closely with clubs applying for licences from September to March.
After applications are received by the end of September, the licensing manager will inspect grounds during November and December and liaise with clubs on a regular basis over their action plans.
Following the final March 31 deadline, applications are decided upon in early April.
Criticisms of the current system (personal opinion)
The fact the FAW do not declare the reasons why club licence applications are turned down does them no favours.
With such information withheld on the grounds of confidentiality, it opens the doors to the rumour mill and enables football followers to decide upon their own version of the truth.
This can make the FAW appear in some eyes to be inefficient, secretive and non-transparent.
Their reason (s) for refusal could make perfect sense (and no doubt they will see it that way behind closed doors), but lack of information leads only to speculation.
This week it’s been made public by Prestatyn Town that they have been refused a Tier 1 licence as they cannot provide a TV gantry suitable for broadcasting purposes.
There is quite a bit more to it than that, there is a fuller story, but this information has not been made available for public consumption.
The instant reaction from many, Prestatyn supporters in particular, was the club has been hard done to.
As the FAW will not discuss the case, they can instantly become the villain in many people’s minds.
They could be ‘the bad guy’, but without an open discussion of the facts, both sides of the argument cannot be assessed.
It is believed the FAW are looking at ways of making this licence decision process more transparent. This would only help them as a governing body.
Anyone wanting more information regarding the Club Licensing procedure can e-mail Steven Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org