A change of ruling to the Welsh Cup means that the runners-up will no longer qualify for Europe should the cup winner’s already have secured a European spot via their league position.
Coupled with a league format that isn’t completely straightforward, this new change in ruling well may create additional confusion. I’ll try and explain the possible outcomes and hopefully they’ll make sense before the end of April!
So in the simplest of circumstances, Welsh domestic football’s four European spots are allocated to
TNS the Welsh Premier League champions, the WPL runner’s-up, the play-off winner and the Welsh Cup winners.
In previous year’s, if the Welsh Cup winner had already qualified for Europe, the losing finalist would then qualify instead, as in the cases of Aberystwyth Town last season and Cefn Druids back in 2012. Now however, that European place is transferred to the WPL creating an extra qualification spot via the league.
Does this mean that the third-placed club will automatically qualify for Europe and not enter the play-off? What if the third-placed club wins the Welsh Cup, does the play-off round then include the side that finishes in 8th? There are many variables here which have an impact on the league’s format and its clubs.
It’s worth noting that the play-off round takes place after the Welsh Cup final. Let’s take a look at the possible scenarios.
If the Welsh Cup winner comes from outside the top seven:
The league format remains unchanged meaning the top-two sides automatically qualify for Europe with places 3rd to 7th entering the play-off round.
What if the Welsh Cup winner is a play-off team:
That team would no longer go into play-off and would be replaced by the side finishing 8th, with the play-off draw still seeded by league positions, i.e. highest place in play-off versus 8th.
If either the WPL champions or second-place win the Welsh Cup:
This is the tricky one… The European place would drop down to the team finishing third in the league. This team would not enter the play-off BUT no additional play-off place would be awarded to the team finishing 8th. This would leave a straightforward, four-way play-off draw: 4th vs 7th, 5 vs 6th).
The reason why the team finishing 8th in the WPL does not qualify for the play-off in this instance but does if a play-off team is wins the Welsh Cup, is purely because the Welsh Premier League official rulebook does not make any reference to this scenario. I suspect that a rule regarding this matter will be inserted to address this inconsistency before next season.
Hopefully it makes sense, get in touch with any comments or questions via the usual ways.