North Wales Coast FA officers have come under heavy fire from the Football Association of Wales over the way a league in the new national pyramid structure was assembled.
The FAW Appeals Panel claim 13 of the 16 clubs in the new tier 4 North Wales Coast West Premier Division fail to meet the sufficient criteria – despite the NWCFA passing all 16 fit for purpose.
And the NWCFA was further slammed for using new criteria which had not yet been ratified by full council or communicated to clubs to make its decisions.
In a report shown to Grassroots North Wales, the NWCFA was also criticised for failing to sufficiently inform clubs of the criteria needed in the new structure.
The Appeals Panel comments emerged after it was tasked with deciding an appeal by CPD Glantraeth FC dated July 21, 2020.
The Anglesey-based club protested against the NWCFA placing it in tier 5 Division One of the North Wales Coast West Football League.
The substantive appeal hearings took place remotely on August 17 and October 20 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CPD Glantraeth were successful in their appeal and will play in the tier 4 Premier Division if – or when – the 2020-21 season starts.
Glantraeth’s appeal grounds:
1) Glantraeth FC were informed the placing of teams in tier 4/5 was going to be done under the process of ground criteria.
2) Glantraeth FC do not accept that a boundary should be in place in the NWCFA area splitting East and West.
3) Rhyl 1879, a newly-formed club starting 2020/21 season, have been placed higher (tier 4) in the system than Glantraeth (tier 5) a current member club.
4) Facilities of certain clubs placed in tier 4 are not of a club inspiring to go forward, we do not believe they meet the expected standard.
5) Lack of consultation with member clubs already affiliated in respect of clubs potentially wanting to be a tier 4 or 5 club.
6) Glantraeth FC were awarded tier 3 certification for the season 2020/21.
7) Members of the steering group have affiliation to member clubs, therefore the decision could be seen as prejudice.
8) A certain member club has been placed in tier 4 with no home and no official ground share agreement in place.
9) Number of teams in tier 4 /5 wasn’t what was proposed in original plans.
The NWCFA had already been criticised for its practices at the first appeal hearing on August 17.
The Appeals Panel were concerned to learn that despite it being stated ground criteria and sporting merit were the sole criteria used, internal inspection of club facilities did not take place.
The Panel said at the time: “The Appeals Panel cannot understand how the NWCFA believed it was appropriate to use ground criteria as one of its criteria but not carry out internal inspections of club facilities.”
The NWCFA were told:
a) It must disclose to the Football Association of Wales copies of the self-certification forms that all 16 clubs were asked to fill in and return.
b) The NWCFA shall inspect all 16 grounds within 28 days of the date of this decision, so as to ensure that they meet the relevant criteria.
c) The NWCFA when undertaking the inspection shall complete a report, which must contain the name of the individual undertaking the inspection, date and time of the inspection and shall be signed by the person(s) undertaking the inspection, certifying the document provides a true and accurate overview of the facilities.
d) The inspection reports shall also be accompanied by photographic evidence of each club’s facilities.
NWCFA inspections outcome
On September 17, in response to an e-mail from Ian Fisher, discipline manager at the Football Association of Wales, NWCFA general secretary Gareth Jones stated the following:
1) None of the 16 clubs failed their inspections. Tier 5 Llannerchymedd FC – who had also appealed to be placed in tier 4 but were turned down – failed the inspection on the ground that they have only 3 shower heads per team dressing room (instead of the required 4).
2) The decision taken by the NWCFA remains the same in the make-up of tier 4.
At the October 20 hearing, the FAW Appeals Panel was damning of the NWCFA’s verdict.
It said: “It is clear from the evidence provided that there are two sets of ground criteria. There is the ground criteria that was and still is in place and there is the proposed new ground criteria (set out at appendix C – provided to the hearing).
“It is accepted by the NWCFA that the proposed new ground criteria has not been ratified by Council. Consequently, the proposed new ground criteria should not have been considered during the process.
“It was deeply unsatisfactory for the Panel to be informed that the February inspections were undertaken against the ‘original criteria’ and the more recent inspections against the ‘proposed new criteria’.
“The individuals undertaking the inspections knew that the proposed new criteria had not been ratified by Council and therefore were not in force.
“An important aspect of this appeal is that it is accepted by the NWCFA that Glantraeth FC meet the tier 3 criteria and therefore also meet the criteria for tier 4.”
The Appeals Panel added: “At the outset of their evidence at the reconvened hearing on October 20, both Mr Gareth Jones and Mr Robert Paton (NWCFA deputy president) confirmed none of the clubs failed their inspections and that the decision taken by the NWCFA remained the same in respect of the make-up of tier 4.
“The first assertion is plainly wrong. The directions given by this Panel has enabled it to closely examine the findings of the second inspection and the accompanying photographs.
“The Panel considers that 13 clubs placed in tier 4 do not meet the original (current) ground criteria.
“However, the task of this Panel is to consider the merits of Glantraeth FC’s appeal and not the merits of whether other clubs placed in tier 4 should remain in tier 4. We consider such a task to be outside of our ambit.”
The appeal decisions mean North Wales Coast West Premier and North Wales Coast West Division One will both contain 17 teams this season.
FAW future recommendations
Allowing Glantraeth’s appeal, the FAW Appeals Panel added: “For season 2021/22, tier 4 should only comprise of 16 teams and the Panel considers that the NWCFA needs to carefully consider the issue of ground criteria and believe that it is imperative that there is proper and timely dialogue with clubs, so as to ensure that all clubs are aware of the criteria they must meet to play in tier 4.
“Furthermore, it should be clearly set out by the NWCFA how the league will achieve a reduction to 16 clubs for season 2021/22.”
FAW final comments
In its final comments to the NWCFA, the Panel said: “The Panel wishes to highlight that it has been concerned with some of the facilities that it has observed following the second inspection.
“We do not consider it appropriate, particularly in light of current social distancing measures, that are likely to be in place for the foreseeable future, even when football activities resume, that clubs are described as having four showers, when the reality is that there are two showers with four heads because spurs have been added.
“This in our view makes a mockery of the ground criteria and we strongly urge the NWCFA to look at and address this in any new ground criteria that may be drafted.
“Furthermore, we considered the evidence of Mr Paton to be ambiguous in that during some of the inspections he appeared to be counting the number of pegs as opposed to the number of seats.
“A clear set of ground criteria is necessary.
“The Panel considers that this appeal has brought into sharp focus the inadequacies of the policies and procedures adopted and employed by the NWCFA and has resulted in this Panel having to spend considerable time analysing and assimilating information to achieve a just outcome.”
The NWCFA was also told to reimburse Glantraeth FC’s appeal fee.
Commenting on the FAW Appeals Panel report, NWCFA general secretary Gareth Jones said: “The comments and observations presented by the FAW Appeal Panel following the outcome of both appeals will be considered by the Association, with appropriate steps being taken to mitigate any similar occurrences in the future.”
Glantraeth FC response
Christopher O’Neal, representing Glantraeth FC, said: “I’m chuffed that the barrister representing the panel and the panel members have upheld our appeal and rightfully given Glantraeth a place in tier 4, but however damning this appears to look for the NWCFA this was not our intention and the officers of the new league should be accountable for this matter not just the NWCFA.”