FOOTBALL in South Wales was hit this week when it was confirmed on Monday that Llanelli AFC had been wound-up after months of prolonged financial instability.
Sadly, the 117-year-old club were finally succumbed by an outstanding unpaid tax bill of £21,000 and were unable to fend off a fourth visit in six months to the High Court.
Whilst attentions have been fixed on the respective achievements of Swansea City and Cardiff City this season, away from the spotlight football in South Wales football was left licking its wounds once again with the collapse of a second Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League club in two seasons, following the demise of Neath FC’s at the end of last season.
When Lee Trundle fronted Neath’s sugar daddy-backed transformation from mid-table also-rans to league heavyweights, the long-term sustainability of their ambitious project was viewed with scepticism long before things soured.
Llanelli however were already a well-established club amongst the domestic top-flight. The Reds had already tasted league and cup success under Peter Nicholas and then Andy Legg and they had inflated their income stream with UEFA prize money, having achieved European qualification for seven consecutive seasons.
I’m not privy to the failings and mismanagement of the club that ultimately led to the downfall but quite simply, Llanelli’s demise shouldn’t have happened.
Attendances played a significant part in Llanelli’s collapse – on Saturday they played what would prove to be their final match, limping out to a 5-1 defeat to Bala Town at Stebonheath in front of just 201 spectators.
Llanelli are certainly not alone in suffering through low attendances and it is a well documented concern which needs to be addressed collectively by the league and its clubs, but essentially Llanelli paid the price for not cutting their cloth accordingly.
If any good is to come from Llanelli’s story, I suspect that we will see the introduction of a salary-cap within the league sooner rather than later. This will at least provide a means of enforcing sustainability, but policing it will be an entirely separate issue and one which is sure to spark fierce debate.
On the pitch, basement side Afan Lido could stand to gain from Llanelli’s exit from the league but they face an uneasy final few weeks to find out whether MacWhirter Welsh League promotion hopefuls Haverfordwest County – the only second tier club in the south to meet promotion criteria – have enough gas in the tank to claim a top-two finish. Having failed to have gone up at first-time of asking last season, Mickey Ellis will be expected to lead his side back into the top-flight this time around.
In the North, Rhyl have already made certain of their return to the Welsh Premier League after securing the Huws Gray Alliance championship last weekend. Rhyl will prove a welcome addition as they return to the Welsh Premier League where they could make quite an impact after a dominant season where they still remain unbeaten in the league.
And with The New Saints having already comfortably sewn up the league title for a successive season and with the Welsh Cup heading to either Bangor City or Prestatyn Town, there is no doubt that North Wales has a firm grip of dominance in the Welsh pyramid.
Though Carmarthen have claimed theWord League Cup and they, along with Port Talbot, are in contention for European qualification via the Play-Offs, southern clubs in the Welsh pyramid have fallen some way behind their northern counterparts.