For most North Wales football teams this cursed season could only end in tears

Ambitious clubs like Bangor 1876 (blue) and Menai Bridge Tigers will not kick a competitive ball in the 2020-21 season as they play in Tier 4. Picture: Dafydd Hughes

Unless you play in tiers 1 or 2 of the Welsh pyramid, yesterday’s announcement from the FAW about the rest of this season was more grim news for North Wales football.

Tiers 3-5 men and tier 2 women will not kick a ball in the 2020-21 campaign. The season is a complete write-off for them.

And even the top two leagues affecting the men’s game in the north – the Cymru Premier and Cymru North – haven’t got it that good.

Unless fans are allowed back into grounds to watch games in those leagues before the end of the season, it will certainly put a damper on things.

We have already seen how sterile the English Premier League has become with all matches this season to date played behind closed doors. And the effect on crucial income has been crippling for most clubs.

The Cymru Premier and Cymru North will be able to kick off again when the country either returns to Alert Level 3 in accordance with the Welsh Government Covid-19 Control Plan or when the ‘Elite Status’ as defined by Sport Wales is redesignated to that competition, whichever is the sooner:

Of course there is no cast-iron guarantee either of the above will happen.

This nasty virus, and all its variants, is still hanging around far too menacingly for anyone to start celebrating.

The top-flight Cymru Premier got underway in September, was suspended in December, and the latest table shows clubs have played between 14 and 17 games this season.

32 matches is the magic number – followed by the Europa League play-offs – if a full campaign is to be completed between the potential dates of March 5 and May 23.

The chances of that happening look possible although it promises to be a hectic schedule for the clubs, taking into account cups and play-offs too.

If the FAW insist on second phase finishing and cups being played, how would it affect a club like, for instance, Caernarfon Town?

They have played 17 league games so far, so they would face another 15 (22 phase one, 10 phase two = 32).

However, if they go all the way in the Welsh Cup (scheduled final June 5) and play-offs, a very realistic scenario, they could end up playing around 25 matches in 13 weeks.

You are talking about part-time footballers and management, volunteer staff, club run by supporters, during a pandemic.

As for the Cymru North, the proposed playing calendar of March 20 to May 29, a 10-week period, looks very testing, the plan being for each of the 16 clubs to play each other once (15 games per club in total).

One half will play eight home matches and seven away, while it will be opposite for the other eight. The fixture list has already been drawn up, it is now a case of slotting in the dates.

The top two tiers, comprising 44 clubs, will also be able to enter the Welsh Cup, to be held between April 20 and June 5.

Headaches for the Cymru Premier and Cymru North then, but perhaps better that than no football at all, which is the situation for men’s tiers 3-5 and women’s tier 2.

Here is how the new schedule affects North Wales….

JD Cymru Premier
To continue under Elite Status.
Proposed playing calendar: 5 March to 31 May.

JD Cymru North
To continue under Elite Status.
Proposed playing calendar: 20 March to 29 May.

Ardal Leagues (tier 3)
Ardal North East and Ardal North West – season cancelled
Cymru Premier Development League – season cancelled
FAW Reserve League – season cancelled
FAW Youth League – season cancelled

Tier 4
North East Wales League Premier Division – season cancelled
North Wales Coast East Premier Division – season cancelled
North Wales Coast West Premier Division – season cancelled

Tier 5
North East Wales League Championship – season cancelled
North East Coast East Division One – season cancelled
North Wales Coast West Division One – season cancelled

Reserve Leagues
North East Wales Reserve League – season cancelled

Veterans Leagues
North East Wales Veterans League – season cancelled
North East Wales Veterans Championship – season cancelled

Women’s football
North Wales League Premier Division, Championship West, Championship East – season cancelled

Opinion

The decision to cancel the season now for tiers 3-5 men and tier 2 women is perhaps a sensible one, given the fight against Covid is by no means over and time was already running well short to finish the 2020-21 campaign with not a single game yet played.

Far better that the planning for 2021-22 starts now and that the FAW keeps all clubs up to date with the latest happenings. The same applies to the area associations.

Clubs in general feel isolated and poorly informed about the latest news during the pandemic.

As for the financial aspect, league and cup registration fees paid by clubs for 2020-21 will cover them for next season – that’s right and proper.

However, clubs should also get paid back all player registration fees, which won’t be the case. Some of the money will be refunded through various channels from the FAW, but nowhere near all of it.

Player registration costs will be ‘discounted’ for next season, but that’s not really going far enough.

A decent idea is surely to start season 2021-22 in mid-summer thus allowing some slack for potential winter restrictions at the end of this year because of the ever-threatening Covid.

Give our lower tier clubs a chance.

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