Cascade Ladies football club is going through a “corridor of uncertainty” after it was announced they would be relegated due to a restructuring of women’s football in Wales – according to the club’s manager.
The team finished above the relegation zone in their first season in the top flight of women’s football in Wales last season, but a radical shake-up of the game by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) means they’ll be back in the second tier next season.
Cascade manager Sam Daniels told Caerphilly Observer: “I’d like to think that I have the loyalty of my players and that they will still be here next season and that they’ll trust us and our vision that we can get back to where we want to be in the year or years to come – which is playing in the top tier of Welsh women’s football.
“Although, on the other hand, if my players – especially the youngsters coming through – want to make a career out of football and clubs from the top tier come calling offering this, that and the other, who am I to stand in their way?”
What is changing?
As part of the FAW’s revamp of the women’s game in Wales, Welsh Premier Women’s League – where Cascade played last season – is to be replaced with the new Tier 1 and Tier 2 leagues.
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.
In total, 37 teams applied for the 24 spaces in the new system. Cascade will play in Tier 2 South next season, while Blackwood-based Coed Duon Women FC will drop from the second tier to the third tier.
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.
“Transparency is the biggest issue”
Daniels said: “The FAW held workshops but we felt like we struggled for answers when asking them and at times we waited weeks for a response – I understand that they are busy but if they want this league to be as good as it can be, surely helping clubs develop should have been a priority?
“The transparency is the biggest issue, there has been no sight of the scoring matrix; how it was worked out and what we scored.”
He continued: “As a club we’ve had very little feedback from the FAW and what we have had has been contradictory.
“For example, grants. We we’re told that we rely heavily on FAW grants, yet our actual income doubles what we have had in grants, and we were also told to apply for the grants by the FAW.
“We were also told that our facilities were not up to an elite standard, yet we train and play our home games at arguably the best facilities in South Wales – Ystrad Mynach Centre for Sporting Excellence. We also have access to the gym and analysis rooms there.”
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Why have the FAW introduced these changes?
An FAW spokesperson told Caerphilly Observer: “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. It’s important to note that our champion club has never progressed further than the first qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League and that is something the FAW is keen to address.
“From next season onwards, the further a champion club gets in the competition, the more funding comes back into clubs within the league, so it benefits everyone.
They added: “The FAW has spent 18 months preparing for this process so it has not come as a surprise to the clubs. The FAW has been in constant dialogue with FIFA and other leagues around Europe to to ensure the FAW has a process that could work here in Wales in order to further develop club football.
“The aim was to look at the whole infrastructure of the Women’s game here in Wales, such as support staff, access to facilities and long-term partnership agreements etc.
“All clubs have been provided with feedback from the process to highlight the key areas that they need to work on and Cascade YC Ladies would have received such information.
“The FAW is keen to continue working with the clubs to help them develop further. A development manager has been appointed for Tier 2 and she will work closely with the clubs in that league to help them be in a position to step-up to the top league when their time comes.
“The new leagues and their exciting brand will be unveiled in August. In addition, a new U19 league will be introduced to help clubs further develop their players for the future.”
Senedd Members step in
The FAW’s plans have drawn fierce criticism from Senedd Members from all four parties in the Welsh Parliament.
Caerphilly’s Labour MS Hefin David, along with South Wales East regional MSs Delyth Jewell (Plaid Cymru) and Laura Anne Jones (Welsh Conservatives) jointly asked the Welsh Government for its stance on the issue.
They were joined by South Wales East regional MS Peredur Owen Griffiths (Plaid Cymru), as well as six other Senedd Members in issuing a statement opposing the plans.
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