Controversial plans to restructure women’s football in Wales have been condemned by Senedd Members.
Cascade Ladies YC, who play in the Welsh Premier Women’s League, avoided relegation in the season just gone – but are set to be denied a second season in the top division.
The club finished eighth in the league, two points above the relegation zone, having been promoted from the second tier in the 2019/20 season.
The plans, which have been drawn up by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) would also see Blackwood-based Coed Duon Women FC relegated from the second tier to the third tier.
What are the plans?
As part of plans revealed by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) on May 31, the top division will be reduced from nine teams to eight for next season.
As well as Cascade, Abergavenny Women’s FC and Briton Ferry Llansawel Ladies will also be relegated to the second tier as part of the plans.
Aberystwyth Town, who finished bottom of the top flight and would have been relegated, will remain in the top flight, while Barry Town United Ladies FC and The New Saints will join the revamped first tier next season.
What are Senedd Members saying?
A host of Senedd Members from all political parties in the Welsh Parliament have voiced their opposition to the proposals.
Caerphilly’s Labour MS Hefin David met with Cascade Ladies at the “state of the art” Centre for Sporting Excellence in Ystrad Mynach, where they play their home games.
He said: “It is very difficult to understand why they have been so unfairly relegated. I will continue to challenge the FAW on this and will work with my colleagues in other parties.”
Dr David, alongside South Wales East regional Members Delyth Jewell (Plaid Cymru) and Laura Anne Jones (Welsh Conservatives), jointly asked the Welsh Government to provide a statement outlining its position.
Dr David, Ms Jewell and Ms Jones all pointed to the fact Welsh Government provides public funding to grassroots sport in Wales, as well as the fact the government-funded body Sport Wales supports the development of football in the country.
They said the Welsh Government was duty-bound to hold the FAW to account on the plans, which they say lack transparency.
In response, Welsh Government minister Lesley Griffiths said: “You only have to look on social media to see how much upset and distress this (reorganisation) has caused.”
Ms Griffiths said a statement would be provided by Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney MS Dawn Bowden, who is the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Art and Sports.
Dr David, Ms Jewell and Ms Jones, also issued a joint-statement alongside fellow Senedd Members Peter Fox, David Rees, Sioned Williams, Luke Fletcher, Tom Giffard and Jane Dodds, as well as South Wales East regional MS Peredur Owen Griffiths.
The MSs said they were “deeply concerned” with the plans and said: “We believe that any such decisions should be based on sporting merit and made in a fair, open and transparent way with the reasoning made clear to clubs at the earliest opportunity.
“As such, we call on the FAW to ensure full transparency and to reverse their decision with regard to teams relegated from the WPWL.”
Why is this happening?
On May 31, the FAW confirmed the creation of the new Tier 1 and Tier 2 leagues, which will replace the Welsh Premier Women’s League.
Tier 1 will contain eight teams, while Tier 2 will contain 16 teams – split into an eight-team southern conference and an eight-team northern conference.
Cascade Ladies have, alongside fellow-top flight sides Abergavenny and Briton Ferry, been placed in Tier 2 South.
In a statement, the FAW said the changes signal “a new era of domestic women’s football in Wales”.
An FAW spokesperson told Caerphilly Observer that clubs were made aware of the plans “over a year ago”.
Teams were made to apply for a place in the restructured top two tiers, with 37 clubs applying for 24 spaces.
What has the FAW said?
An FAW spokesperson said a series of workshops and webinars were held to explain the process to the clubs.
They said: “It was also explained that clubs would not be judged on sporting merit alone, but also infrastructure, resources etc.
“The FAW has been transparent with the clubs in terms of how much weighting was given to sporting merit from the beginning. The clubs never challenged that when the FAW was taking them through what they were being assessed on. Not one club questioned the process.”
They added: “The aim of the changes is to make the top levels of the game in Wales more professional, building for the future and developing players and clubs. This is a new start for the league.”
Stay informed with quality, independent, local journalism…that matters
We believe the public should be informed about their community, coherently and with context. However, running a professional news service comes at a financial cost.
We are asking readers for their support to help us develop and grow our service.
Our membership costs from just £3 a month and in return, you can use our website without adverts.
Become a member – cancel anytime