The Senedd needs to shift – we have a game that needs saving !

Supporters look on as Llysfaen entertain Bangor 1876 in the NWCFA Junior Cup last season. There was an amazing atmosphere at this tier 5 level game. How much would we give to be able to watch some local football again? Picture: Dafydd Hughes, Bangor 1876

Small problems can soon snowball if they are not nipped in the bud.

This week, two clubs who planned to be part of the North East Wales League Championship this season, folded.

Two of North Wales’ leading clubs, Colwyn Bay and Flint Town United, recently lost players who decided to rejoin the English pyramid as there was more chance of them getting to kick a ball soon.

These are undoubtedly early effects of the heel-dragging Welsh Government denying clubs from tier 2 and below the chance to start playing again.

Tier 1 – the Cymru Premier and its ‘elite athletes‘ have been given a start date of September 12.

Even so, the top flight are facing difficult times, as its 12 teams will have to play behind closed doors until further notice. Really bad news for those clubs reliant on income from gate receipts.

But at least they can start playing again and have a date.

The rest – just under 200 senior teams including reserve divisions confirmed and yet to be confirmed – remain in limbo.

They might be allowed to train under social distancing terms, but still have no idea which month they might play their first competitive fixture.

Now the 19-team North Wales Women’s Football League has been organised into divisions you can add them to the list. Ladies in waiting, but not in a royal family sense.

The girls are ready to go right now! Okay, with the men we have a few problems with the NWCFA which is holding up league business, but the majority are in a position to start too. Let them play.

Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, it has been a popular opinion in Wales that our Senedd (Welsh Government) has handled everything better – in a far more cautious and calculated way – than Boris and his Westminster cronies.

And that approach has carried over into sport. However, the response to this slow-but-sure football policy in Wales has not been so supportive.

We’ve seen considerably more progress in getting footballers playing again in England than we have in Wales.

Yet First Minister Mark Drakeford has been content to relax travel restrictions, allowing our tourist spots to be swamped during August.

It’s apparently fine to pack beaches, trains and allow large public gatherings.

We can enter pubs and clubs, where space can be limited, yet letting 100 or so people into football grounds, far more spacious and easier to avoid bunching, is a no-no.

It’s bad enough to be treating our national league like this, but to be doing it to the lower leagues, where for the large part crowd control will never be a problem, is way over-cautious.

It’s not good enough and it’s about time Drakeford gave sport some thought and let our players play and our fans watch.

Otherwise, there will soon be a lot more players departing North Wales to join English clubs and we will get many others following the route of Mold Town United and Llanfarthin this week by disbanding.

When I’ve raised some sparks on this matter before I was told not to blame the FAW.

Our governing body is only following the advice of the Welsh Government, people say.

I can definitely see the validity of that point, but I so wish we had more steel in Cardiff to challenge these politicians.

And the FAW should not be charging registration fees without a start date.

Clubs cannot afford these fees with no money coming in.

Where are clubs getting income from right now?

They are trying everything, raffles, charity events, courting sponsors, and I have no doubt whatsoever that there’s a lot of generous people dipping into their pockets, those connected and not connected with clubs, to keep at least some finance coming in.

No payments to players below tier 3 level? Ha! which club could afford to dish out money in the current climate, even if they were permitted to?

Some very senior people in North Wales football – old heads who know the game and how clubs work inside out – have told me this week that more clubs will go down the chute unless the Senedd acts very soon.

They are not doom-mongering, they are just telling the truth.

So the message to Mark Drakeford and his team is… the game and get your damn fingers out.

As a social media friend wrote to me today: “It’s got to the stage now where @MarkDrakeford and @FAWales are destroying grassroots football. We are miles behind England now and players just losing interest. Over the border they are now allowing fans in but we still can’t play. 32 players can go to the pub though. Shambles.”

Sport plays a huge part in people’s lives – football more than most.

The country has been hit hard, like the rest of the world, by Covid-19. We need cheering up badly and football is a major way to do it.

It’s not just about making money Drakeford & Co……sport matters too.

There is a petition circulating which is calling on the Welsh Government to permit clubs below tier 1 in Wales to play matches and allow supporters to attend. Click on this link to sign:

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