Respective Cymru North and Cymru South leaders Prestatyn Town and Swansea Uni are unable to gain promotion to next season’s Cymru Premier after failing to achieve a Tier 1 domestic licence following an appeal hearing this afternoon.
Prestatyn, 16-points clear in the Cymru North prior to the coronavirus outbreak, looked strong candidates to return to the top-flight while in the South, Swansea Uni were a point ahead of Haverfordwest County. Interestingly both of the respective second-placed teams in the Cymru North and Cymru South, Flint Town United and Haverfordwest, have been successfully awarded licences and are eligible for promotion.
With Cefn Druids also successfully overturning their initial decision, there are 14 clubs who have been granted a Tier 1 licence for next season. And after Airbus UK and Newtown won their appeal hearings, every top-flight club except for Cefn Druids has also achieved an Uefa licence for 2020/21.
In tow with leagues throughout Europe, the issue of promotion and relegation, European qualification and final standings remains clouded in uncertainty in the Cymru Premier and below.
This week Uefa announced that they were giving all domestic bodies up until 25th May to confirm whether they intend to continue with the season amidst a growing sense of realisation across Europe’s leagues that playing on presents huge hurdles.
So far the FAW have remained publically silent on the issue, they are exploring their various options behind the scenes, although the chances of football returning anytime soon in Wales are diminishing with each passing day.
Player safety and welfare, testing impracticalities, fixture re-scheduling, venue suitability, contracts, government directives and moral standing all weigh heavily against the notion of the 2019/20 season being completed on the field and realistically, the pressing issue facing the FAW at this stage is not whether the remaining fixtures can be completed but how they conclude the 2019/20 season without another ball being kicked.
Declaring the season null and void and determining European qualification – a major source of revenue for the top Cymru Premier clubs – and relegation via sporting merit will open up a huge can of worms, as will using an average-points format that has been touted as a possible option for other leagues. Using the current standings creates further unfairness given an uneven spread of games played and using the standings from the end of Phase 1 to settle the season renders a whole chunk of the season in which valid games were played useless.
Welsh football’s situation is further complicated by the fact it seems almost impossible that its top clubs will be able to complete in the money-spinning early European qualifying rounds which usually commence in July. Additionally, next season was also supposed to see the latest stage of the Cymru League’s reform take place with Tier 3 undergoing a summer restructure.
As time goes on, the pressure to find a resolution to solve the matters increases but the FAW and its clubs have done well to remain silent and bide its time.
Whichever direction the FAW finally commit to however, it is inevitable that they will draw scathing criticism and face the possibility of a legal challenge such is the impossible task of satisfying each individual clubs needs and ensuring complete fairness, especially when demands and frustrations are being constantly tested in all aspects of life during such strange and difficult times.
The only thing that seems clear now, is the next few months will be the most challenging since the inception of the Welsh top division.