The Welsh Premier League
The Welsh Premiership is the national football league for Wales and is at the top of the Welsh football league system. Prior to 2002, the league was known as the League of Wales, but changed its name as part of a sponsorship deal. Currently, the full sponsored name of the league is the Principality Building Society Welsh Premier Football League.
The league was formed in 1992 by the Football Association of Wales as they believed that the Welsh international football team was under threat from Fifa. Wales, along with the other three home nations, have a permanent seat on the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and it was thought that many Fifa members were resentful of this and pressing for the four nations to unite into one combined side for the whole of the United Kingdom.
At the time, Wales was almost unique in World football in that it didn\’t have a national league of its own. Traditionally, the best teams in Wales had always played over the border in the English leagues. Cardiff City, Swansea City and Wrexham ply their trade in the Football League whilst Aberdare Athletic, Merthyr Town and Newport County are all former members of the football league.
Because of poor transportation links, it has always been much easier to travel east-west than north-south, so clubs tended to look east to England for competitors and many of Wales\’ top semi-professional sides also played in the English pyramid; Bangor City were founder members of the Football Conference and famously reached the FA Trophy final in 1984.
The formation of the League of Wales saw the start of a bitter dispute between the FAW and those clubs who wanted to remain part of the English pyramid. The \’Irate Eight\’, as they were dubbed, consisted of Bangor City, Barry Town, Caernarfon Town, Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport County, Newtown and Rhyl.
Prior to the inaugural season, Bangor City, Newtown and Rhyl returned to play in Wales, however as Rhyl\’s application to join the league was late, they were placed in the second level of the pyramid system. Because of FAW sanctions, the remaining five clubs were forced to play their home matches in England. Following a season in exile at Worcester City, five became four, as Barry Town joined the Welsh league system.
A court ruling in 1995 allowed the remaining four clubs to return to Wales to play their home matches while still remaining within the English system; despite this victory, Caernarfon Town decided to join the League of Wales, however Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport County remain in the English league pyramid system.
The Welsh Premier kicked-off season 2006/7 with 17 clubs – one less than in the last campaign. Bottom club Cardiff Grange Quins elected to resign from the league after struggling throughout much of the season. Welsh League champions Goytre United declined the chance to move up.
Runners-up Neath Athletic were unable to meet the ground criteria and, despite a late bid, their application was rejected by the clubs. Neither of the top two clubs in the Cymru Alliance had applied for promotion, thus 17th placed Cwmbran survived in the top flight, despite a 13-point deduction for fielding ineligible players.
Clubs are promoted to the league from the two regional feeder leagues; the Cymru Alliance in the north and the confusingly named Welsh football league in the south. Clubs who finish as champions – or as runners-up if the champions decide not to seek promotion – of the feeder leagues are promoted subject to an application for membership being received and accepted and the stadium and infrastructure safety criteria of that League being met.
The champions of the Welsh Premiership qualify, along with the champions of every European domestic league, for the Uefa Champions League. The second placed team qualifies for the Uefa Cup with a place in the Intertoto Cup going to the third placed team in the league. A place in the Uefa Cup is also awarded to the winners of the Welsh Cup.
The league is sponsored by the Principality Building Society for three years starting in season 2006/7.
Update for 2010/2011 Season
THE Welsh Premier – the national league of Wales – will kick-off the 2010/11 season on August 13 with 12 clubs, after a reduction in size from 18 clubs in 2009/10.
No teams were promoted from either of the feeder leagues as the only eligible club on playing merit – Cymru Alliance champions Llangefni Town – failed to gain the necessary FAW domestic licence.
The five lowest-placed clubs in the top flight – Cefn Druids, Caersws, Welshpool, Porthmadog and Connah’s Quay – were relegated to the Alliance along with the 2009 champions Rhyl, who finished sixth, but also failed in their licence application and appeal.
The New Saints finished the campaign as champions for the fifth time and also clinched a double by winning the League Cup.
Llanelli were runners-up, with Port Talbot claiming a highest-ever finish of third.
The league had started 2009/10 with the addition of promoted Bala Town, who retained their place for the new 12-club league.
There is no route for promotion from the Welsh Premier, although the champion side is entered in the Uefa Champions League, with two clubs entered in the Europa League alongside the Welsh Cup winners, who go straight into the second qualifying round.
The league has been sponsored by the Principality Building Society since 2006.
The clubs will play each other twice in the first phase of the 2010/11 competition.
The league will then split into top six and bottom six, with the clubs in those groups playing each other twice again to make a 32-fixture league season.
No club in the bottom six may finish higher than seventh, no matter how many points are gained during the split stage.
Clubs finishing in third to seventh position will then take part in a play-off to determine who gains the third Europa League spot the following season.
Should the Welsh Cup winners be amongst those clubs, the eighth placed club would be invited into the play-offs.
Because of this, the season will be extended, as the play-offs will not be able to take place until after the Welsh Cup final.
Based on the Cardiganshire coast, the Seasiders were founder members of the League with a highest finish to date of third, attracting a strong student following from the University which is based in the town.
Promoted to the Welsh Premier in 2004 as runaway Cymru Alliance champions, the club plays adjacent to the giant Airbus plant in Broughton. Struggled in their first three seasons but achieved their highest-ever finish in 2010 to qualify for the 12-club league.
Progressed from the relative obscurity of the Wrexham Area League to the Welsh Premier in seven years, twice finishing runners-up in the Cymru Alliance before clinching promotion to the top flight as champions in 2009.
One of the most famous football clubs in Wales and one of the first domestic clubs to feature in Europe, stalwarts of the Northern Premier League for many seasons. Welsh champions in 1994 and 1995 and Welsh Cup winners 1998 and 2000, the Citizens struggled to recapture their glory days until the appointment of manager Nev Powell, which saw the Welsh Cup added to the trophy cabinet in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Returned to Welsh football from the English pyramid in 1995, relegated from the Welsh Premier in 1999-2000 but bounced straight back. Relegated in 2007/08.
Founder members of the League, achieved their highest ever LoW placing in 2001/2 – won the League Cup in 2000/1, which was retained in 2002. Relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season as one of the bottom five placed clubs, when the Premier league reduced from 18 teams to 12 for the 2010/11 season.
West Wales club who gained League status in 1996, highest finish third in 2001. Reached the Welsh Cup final in 1999 and 2005 and won a Uefa Cup tie in the same year. Won the Welsh Cup for the first time in 2007.
Connah’s Quay Nomads
Based on Deeside in north Wales, founder members of the League, finished fifth in 2003, their best to date. Ground-sharing at nearby Flint Town United for 2006/7. Relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season as one of the bottom five placed clubs, when the Premier league reduced from 18 teams to 12 for the 2010/11 season.
Founder members of the League and won the title in the first season, representing Wales in the European Champions Cup. Relegated in 2007/2008.
Founder members of the League with a fine football tradition that has produced players such as Ivor Allchurch and Mel Charles. Qualified for the Uefa Cup in 2004 after finishing third in the league table.
Founder members, twice relegated but returned as Welsh League champions 2004. Went full-time in 2005/6, winning the title for the first time in 2007/8, reverting to semi-pro status the following season when they finished as runners-up to Rhyl.
Anglesey outfit who were promoted to the Welsh Premier for the first time in 2007 as champions of the Cymru Alliance, where they spent nine seasons. But their first season in the Welsh Premier saw two managers sacked and they finished bottom to make a swift return to the feeder league.
Following the merger of neighbouring Welsh Leaguers Skewen Athletic and Neath, the new club were runners-up in Welsh League Division 1 in their first season, achieving promotion the following campaign as runaway champions.
NEWI Cefn Druids
Based near Wrexham, an earlier amalgamation of Cefn Albion and Druids United, who joined the League in 1999. Relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season as one of the bottom five placed clubs, when the Premier league reduced from 18 teams to 12 for the 2010/11 season.
One of Wales’ oldest clubs, ever-present League members, twice runners-up and European representatives. The excellently-appointed Latham Park is a frequent choice for major cup semi-finals and finals and European games.
Port Talbot Town
Have made consistent progress on and off the field since joining the League in 2000, later changing name from Athletic to Town. Reached the League Cup final in 2005/6 and the Welsh Cup final in 2009/10, also achieving a best finish of third and qualifying for Europe for the first time.
Founder members, relegated 1998 but returned 2003 as runaway Cymru Alliance champions. Relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season as one of the bottom five placed clubs, when the Premier league reduced from 18 teams to 12 for the 2010/11 season.
North Wales outfit promoted to the Welsh Premier for the first time in 2008 as the runaway Cymru Alliance champions. Spent much of their first top flight season battling relegation, but survived for a second term and qualified for the new-look Welsh Premier in 2010.
Spent many years in the English pyramid before joining the League in 1993. Crowned Welsh Premier champions for the first time in 2003/4 when they also won the League Cup and the Welsh Cup. Relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season after failing their license application and appeal, despite finishing 6th, when the Premier league reduced from 18 teams to 12 for the 2010/11 season.
The New Saints
Formerly Llansantffraid FC and Total Network Solutions, champions in 2000 and won three successive titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Welsh Cup winners in 2004/5, League Cup winners in 2005, 2009 and 2010, also lifting the FAW Premier Cup in 2007. The only full-time side in the league, changed its name to The New Saints in June 2006 after cessation of a 10-year sponsorship deal. Moved from Llansantffraid to Oswestry in 2007, winning the double in 2010.
Mid-Wales club who were promoted to the League in 1997 but relegated after one season, returned in 2002. Relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season as one of the bottom five placed clubs, when the Premier league reduced from 18 teams to 12 for the 2010/11 season.
Kits © packmanch from his Welsh 3GT Kitpack