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Welsh football needs specific grassroots officer to fight for smaller clubs

Sion Williams (second from right) with Prestatyn Sports’ new committee. Sion believes Welsh football needs a designated grassroots officer to represent lower league clubs. Picture: Damon Mead

The FAW should employ a designated grassroots football officer to fight the corner of lower league clubs in desperate need of support.

That’s the view of Sion Williams, joint-manager at Prestatyn Sports of the tier 4 North Wales Coast East Premier Division.

Sion believes the position should go to someone steeped in the traditions of grassroots football, a person who knows all the ins-and-outs and not an FAW-appointed “desk-man/woman”.

Grassroots clubs across Wales so often feel neglected and isolated.

One of the most common concerns is the lack of communication from the FAW.

A grassroots officer would be an ideal go-between, taking the views of clubs direct to the FAW, and also transmitting important information from the governing body to the clubs, helping give them a better understanding of what goes on.

Prestatyn Sports are a club which has had to largely fend for itself in securing a new ground at The Meadows in the town which is suitable to progress up the pyramid.

Joint-manager Williams feels clubs need a better link between themselves and the FAW.

“They need a grassroots officer that travels the length of the country and witnesses first-hand exactly the hardship clubs face,” he said.

“Someone who’s been there and done it at grassroots level but isn’t just a ‘yes man’ like so many that go on the FAW council.

“The game at grassroots has changed since many of those lifetime members were elected.

“Our game needs new blood that’s going to elevate the game, especially at that (grassroots) level, fight for grants for clubs, help them apply for licences and leases that are mandatory for FAW grants.”

It has been a bug-bear of clubs for years that many FAW councillors are too elderly and not in touch enough with the modern game; are too easily led in voting matters by more dominant members and are not ‘out there’ enough.

FAW officers based in Cardiff also gives clubs in North Wales a feeling of being detached.

When in 1985 the FAW moved its headquarters from Wrexham in the north to the capital Cardiff, the balance of power shifted firmly to the south.

However, the north is set to benefit from the opening last year of the state-of-the-art National Football Development Centre at Colliers Park in Wrexham.

Nonetheless, the feeling is a better connection is still needed between grassroots clubs at the FAW.

Almost 50 northern clubs in tier 5 of the new Welsh pyramid suffered a blow this week when it was announced only tiers 1-4 (men) and 1-2 (women) would receive money from the FIFA COVID 19 Relief Plan.

The men will get £750,000 and the women £375,000 from the pot, to assist in the alleviation of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but tier 5 has not been listed among recipients.

“This is exactly the sort of thing a grassroots officer could take up on behalf of clubs,” added Sion Williams. “Why nothing for tier 5?”

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