Cymru Premier gets start date – but another snub for grassroots football

Gwalchmai FC at a recent training session. Clubs cannot wait to start playing football again but as yet no indication has been given when they can

Grassroots was yet again disregarded in the FAW’s feeble ‘return to football’ announcement today.

It begs the question – does our national body really want lower level clubs in Wales to survive, especially those below tier 3?

The English FA, far from perfect it has to be said, is much more advanced in its planning for clubs down the pyramid to return to action.

At present, unless you are in the Cymru Premier, you cannot even play a friendly in Wales.

There are no signs of when this might change, just the usual ‘in due course’ and ‘awaiting further Welsh government advice’ stock statements.

Unless decisive action is taken soon, we run the risk of players in Wales totally losing interest and more clubs having to fold.

Already we’ve had cases of players who have signed for Welsh clubs changing their minds and joining the English pyramid, probably because they see more chance of getting to kick a ball across the border.

At the moment Wales is offering no incentive and little hope.

Of course the Covid-19 situation is very serious and needs respecting, but right now coronavirus cases continue to remain low and rules relating to many walks of life become increasingly relaxed.

Yet football remains a no-go area.

Even though the go-ahead for Cymru Premier football to return was given today, the terms are hardly ideal and has put the survival of some clubs under threat.

Today’s FAW statement read:

“The Football Association of Wales has received confirmation that the JD Cymru Premier has been granted elite athletic status by the Welsh Government, meaning that the 2020/21 season can get underway next month.

“The FAW has been working closely with the Welsh Government, Sport Wales and the JD Cymru Premier on a return to play plan for the league, which will start its new season on 11 September.

Matches will initially take place without spectators as Welsh Government continues its cautious approach towards the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The FAW also welcomes today’s (21 August) announcement by the Welsh Government that three upcoming sporting events will be trialled with a maximum of 100 spectators.

“The FAW has submitted plans for the JD Cymru Premier to be included in future pilot programmes with larger crowds, should this trial period go well over the next three-week review period. The FAW notes that this is dependent on the infection rates remaining low.

“There are currently no plans from the Welsh Government to change their guidelines for those leagues without elite athlete status. Therefore, for all clubs below the JD Cymru Premier, the FAW’s Return to Training – Phase 2 guidelines must still be followed and competitive football is currently prohibited. The FAW will continue to work with Welsh Government, Sport Wales and the Welsh Sports Association to review this status.

“Meanwhile, JD Cymru Premier clubs will follow the FAW Return to Play Regulations in order for the safe return of football in the league. The regulations have been approved by the FAW Board and have a societal duty to help reduce the transmission rate of the virus.

“All 12 clubs have recently undergone site visits with FAW representatives and the broadcaster, S4C, to ensure that the stadiums are compliant with social distancing measures, with ‘Red Zones’ created to reduce the number of people permitted in the same areas as the players.

“As part of the Return to Play Regulations, all players, technical staff, club officials, match officials and administrators who will require access to the red zone of the stadium, will have to undergo daily medical assessments and a temperature test upon arrival at the stadium.

“The FAW welcomes the cooperation of the 12 clubs and the new measures in place have helped to ensure that the League will start again next month.”

So, what’s to make of all that?

Caernarfon Town are the best-supported team in the Cymru Premier

Even starting the Welsh Premier without fans seems ridiculous as social distancing is surely achievable with the rather low number of fans usually attending games.

The main exception will be Caernarfon Town, whose average attendance is at least twice that of the other clubs.

Making the Canaries play in front of no fans will hurt the club massively in the coffers.

The FAW really needs to get a grip here and arrange compensation for clubs like Caernarfon who will suffer badly through this lightweight decision.

How about growing a pair and telling the Welsh Government where to stick their rules? Fight for your clubs!

You can’t have the very existence of clubs in your own national league under threat because of this over-cautious approach made by politicians who largely have not got a clue how our game works.

The Welsh Government allow packed beaches but don’t let a couple of hundred fans into a football ground.

Let the bloody fans in!

It’s fine for Mark Drakeford to deliver a video message wishing Connah’s Quay Nomads all the best on their Champions League debut, but how about another message for Welsh Premier clubs offering assurance that they will be looked after while this crisis remains?

Back to grassroots…..

So our North Wales clubs below Cymru Premier level can meet another team in the pub but can’t play a game – ridiculous.

Our clubs are fantastic, I know because I work with many of them.

They are full of community spirit, but I can see many struggling under the present situation as players will soon lose interest at grassroots level and will find work or other things to do on a Saturday if there isn’t even the prospect of starting again on the horizon

Having spoken to a few managers this week, numbers in training are dwindling as by now clubs have had a fair few sessions but are not even arranging friendlies yet.

To be honest, I think many clubs would reluctantly accept even if the FAW said nothing will happen until January.

At least clubs would know and can plan accordingly.

There’s so much to look forward to. New leagues, fresh starts, clubs thriving in making preparations….but at the moment not even an indication of when matches might commence.

Johny Rowlands and his squad of Bodedern youngsters. Why can’t teams like this start playing football again?

And what about the youngsters? Our future? They don’t even have to social distance, so let them play immediately!

Of course, as we’ve seen in recent months, the world can change so quickly, but that should not stop some decisive action and planning in a far quicker manner than we’re witnessing now.

It’s the waiting that kills you…..if the FAW and Welsh Government don’t get their skates on, our domestic game is in danger of falling through the ice.

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