The main stumbling block to Prestatyn Town’s hopes of promotion to the Cymru Premier League has been solved – but too late to help them this season.
Two months ago the 2019-20 Cymru North champions were refused elevation to the national league by the FAW as their TV gantry was not up to standard.
Town had applied to Denbighshire county council a month earlier to upgrade it, but the planning application was not heard until Wednesday (June 24).
It was passed, but the decision missed the deadline to save Prestatyn’s promotion dream.
Cymru North title-winners by a massive 16 points last season, the Seasiders were denied promotion to the top flight in April as they failed to attain the necessary Tier 1 licence.
Runners-up Flint Town United will go up in their place.
Prestatyn’s failure to secure a Domestic Licence essential to compete in the CPL centred around their television gantry not being suitable for latest broadcasting needs.
The club applied to Denbighshire’s planning department in March to construct a replacement gantry and establish additional hardstanding at the Motion Finance Stadium.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the planning committee were unable to meet to vote on the application before the FAW decided on its top two leagues formations for this season on June 17.
Prestatyn’s initial request for a Domestic Licence was turned down by the FAW First Instance Body on April 6 and then rebuffed again by the Appeals Body on April 30.
The club had threatened to go to sports arbitration over the matter, but after the FAW opted to promote Flint last week, Prestatyn dropped their planned action.
To rub salt in the wound, Denbighshire planners granted the gantry plan today.
Prestatyn will be permitted five years to build the structure, which will cost in the region of £40,000. The club is awaiting news on whether the FAW will help pay for it.
Town, who recently appointed Merseyside businessman Jamie Welsh as chairman in place of the resigning Neal Cokaloglu, insist they are determined to win the Cymru North again this season and clinch promotion.
Had the FAW exercised common sense and extended the time limit for Prestatyn Town to solve their planning issue, the club would have earned the promotion it deserved.
The make-up of the Cymru Premier for 2020-21 may have been officially decided by the FAW Board on June 17, but who knows when the season will actually start in these uncertain times?
Deadlines are deadlines, but if ever there was time to allow some sensible rule-flexing, it is now.
Knowing that Denbighshire county council intended to assess the football club’s plan soon, and that it was recommended for approval, the FAW could have waited.
Prestatyn even managed to secure a late ground share arrangement which would have made them eligible to play in the CPL, but again, no leeway from Cardiff.
As it is, we now have a situation where a team which finished 16 points behind the Cymru North champions is going up instead of them.
I in no way begrudge Flint their promotion. It is an excellent club which has worked hard to prepare for top-flight football. I have immense respect for manager Niall McGuinness and the players, but Prestatyn earned that league title and deserve to go up.
We live in times where off-the-field matters take precedence over ability on the park. It’s not right, but the FAW won’t be changing anything soon.
They had a chance to increase the number of Cymru Premier teams to 14, surely a sensible option after 10 years of the ‘Super 12’ but threw it out, much to the disdain of many clubs who were in favour.
I wish Flint well, and I think they will be a fine asset to the top flight, but for Prestatyn it will be a case of having to kick up the motivation once again to achieve something they did so comfortably in 2019-20.
That won’t be easy, but with Neil Gibson at the helm they must have a decent chance.