It’s been a few days shy of a month since I last penned a few words on insidethewpl and to say a lot has happened in the Welsh Premier League since then would be an understatement.
My last post looked back at Haverfordwest County and how they were bowing out of the league with their own ‘credibility intact’ after churnin a string of committed performances whilst languishing bottom of the table – but in recent weeks, I’ve been pondering the word ‘credibility’ and it’s relativeness to the Welsh Premier League’ an awful lot.
The well-documented betting allegations surrounding that Rhyl-Port Talbot game, along with the end of season domestic licensing circus and fiddly, unwelcome permutations that the league’s unique format creates, have overshadowed and soured the 2015/16 season and left a stain on the Welsh Premier League’s image.
I staunchly support the league and its clubs; on this very blog I try and champion the positive aspects of the league and and when I’m critical, I try and do so objectively. In recent weeks however, I can’t help but question the credibility of our undervalued national league.
As we’ve become accustomed to, decisions and events which shape the league are all too often decided off the field and the annual uncertainty regarding club circumstances and promotion/relegation overshadow and undermine what happens on Saturday afternoons.
The wider media seem far quicker to pick up a negative news story than promote a positive one and measures introduced by the FAW – namely the domestic licence and league format – to help support and grow the league appear to be choking it, it could be argued.
There is no denying a growing sense of resentment towards the ‘Super-12’ format with supporters, players and clubs publicly expressing their dissatisfaction towards the amount of repeat fixtures.
For those who think my words about the league losing credibility are harsh – an attendance of 64 (!) in Rhyl’s final game of the season against Carmarthen tells you all you need to know. A league of the WPL’s status should not be attracting such a measly figure regardless of circumstance.
My worry is there could be worse yet to come…
The outcome of the domestic licence, which I am in principle in favour of, could potentially throw the league into a state of chaos as the season draws to a close.
Port Talbot Town have called on the FAW to reconsider their decision to reject the club’s appeal after initially rejecting their licensing application, after their rejection cited the on-going investigation into betting allegations as a part of their decision, which will see the Steelmen unexpectedly demoted to the Welsh League after 16-seasons in the top-flight.
This brings with it a whole host of potential issues as Rhyl (finished 11th) or Haverfordwest County (12th) could be saved from relegation and offered their place back in the WPL with Port Talbot automatically taking one of the two relegation places – however it is believed that the boards and fans at Rhyl and Haverfordwest County are split as to whether they want their respective clubs to stay in the WPL – those against argue competing at a more regionalised level in the Cymru Alliance or Welsh League is more desirable.
At time of writing, Cardiff Met are the only club to have achieved the double-act of finishing in the top-two of their feeder league and obtain a WPL domestic license. And when not making national headlines for a mass brawl in their heated 7-0 defeat to Caernarfon at the weekend, Cefn Druids could join them but require three points from their final two league games.
As things stand, three clubs are dropping out of the WPL and just one (if Cefn Druids don’t make the cut) will be coming up. Alarmingly, a 10-team Welsh Premier League cannot be ruled out.
How on earth are clubs expected to plan for the forthcoming season when they don’t even know what league they’re going to be playing in come August?
Amidst all this of course, is the FAW’s ongoing investigation into those alleged betting allegations which rumbles on in the background. Regardless of the authenticity of those very strong rumours, the damage to the reputation of the league, clubs and players will already have been done.
For even the staunchest of supporter’s of the Welsh Premier League, events over the last month has been difficult to swallow to say the least.