The Football Association Of Wales Sticks The Knife Into Barry Town United & AFC Llanelli

By on Jun 15, 2013 in Latest | 8 comments


The mental image of football’s administrators as ossified relics from a bygone age is a familiar one. Hidden away in oak-paneled boardrooms that are stained with the musty scent of decades worth of cigar smoke, they twirl their walrus moustaches whilst passing judgement, always ensuring that their own personal fiefdoms remain untouched by too much change. In England in recent years, this image has come to be replaced by the sharp-suited nonentity, the relentless moderniser with an obsession with “revenue streams” and at least one eye always fixed on a mobile phone, but in Wales things are somewhat different, and this week it has been the Football Association of Wales that has left onlookers flabbergasted over a decision which will leave two sizable communities without senior clubs from the start of next season.

The two clubs that have fallen victim to the whims of the FAW have been AFC Llanelli and Barry Town United. The former of the two was a new club formed after the winding up of Llanelli AFC in April after a winding up petition was brought against the club by HMRC over an unpaid tax debt of just £3,000. Five years earlier the old club had been the champions of Wales, but its closure led to the application of a new club which hoped to start the following season back in the the Welsh League, which has three divisions which run below the Welsh Premier League. In a country in which crowds in the top division largely run to hundreds rather than thousands, it didn’t seem like an unreasonable request to make.

If anything, though, the case of Barry Town United is even worse. The club formed after inevitable collapse of Barry Town, which had been under the ownership of Stuart Lovering since a previous financial crisis in 2003. Lovering ended up, over a period of a decade, alienating its supporters and eventually killing the club in a story that we have covered on here before and which ended with a chaotic last season during which the despotic Lovering first pulled the club’s under-19 team from its league claiming a lack of players while the Barry Town Supporters Club – who had been running the club on a day to day basis for the previous couple of the years – confirmed that the team had seventeen players available for it at the time, appointing himself as the club secretary, and then withdrawing the club from the league with two matches of the season left to play.

Barry Town United, the phoenix club formed from the ashes of the final collapse of Barry Town, had also been hoping to start the new season in the Welsh League, with a petition signed by more than one thousand people requesting that the club be placed into its first division. The matter was put before the Football Association of Wales’ Domestic Football Committee, who recommended the AFC Llanelli and Barry Town United should be placed respectively in Divisions Three and Two of the Welsh League, but when the matter was put before the organisation’s full committee, the recommendations of the Domestic Football Committee were overridden by a vote of twenty-one to three, and the two clubs were told that they would have to start again at the very bottom of the Welsh league system, nine divisions below the Welsh Premier League. The FAW’s statement on the subject offered no condolences to the supporters that have suffered under these losses, only mustering this terse comment on the matter instead:

The FAW Council held their bimonthly meeting at Betws y Coed on Thursday, June 13th 2013. On the agenda was the application of both Barry Town United AFC and AFC Llanelli for full membership to the FAW for the 2013-14 season.

The Council members considered a recommendation that both clubs should be admitted into the Welsh Football League. The FAW Council voted against this recommendation. Both Barry Town United AFC and AFC Llanelli have been instructed to apply for membership to their respective Area Associations.

At the time of writing, no further explanation behind the decision has been given, although it has been strongly suggested, most notably on the website of Wales Online, the online version of the South Wales Echo newspaper, that rival clubs may have been the motivating factor behind this decision, stating that, “the Echo has been told a number of other Welsh League teams, or those aspiring to promotion, kicked up a fuss about the matter.” Meanwhile, the Barry Town Supporters Club has reacted with a statement of its own, which dripped with anger and disbelief at the verdict reached by the FAW:

The Barry Town Supporters Committee is stunned by the news that the FAW Council have refused to ratify a proposal by its own Domestic Committee to allow Barry Town United AFC to become full members of the Football Association of Wales and the Welsh Football League. The FAW Council appears to have ignored the wishes of the football community, as well as letters of support from Alun Cairns MP, Jane Hutt AM and Vale of Glamorgan Council, and an online petition of over 1,250 signatories in arriving at their decision. This decision would appear to contradict of their own strategic plan for involving local communities in running their local clubs.

Anybody with any sort of moral compass must surely understand that Stuart Lovering was an encapsulation of everything that is wrong with the sort of people that run football clubs for either the purposes of their own enrichment or to fuel their own egos, whilst the Barry Town Supporters Club are his polar opposites, volunteers who work tirelessly because if they don’t, no-one else will. BTSC is exactly the sort of organisation that the FAW should be encouraging to flourish in Wales. Instead, those that would seek to get involved in the lower reaches of Welsh football could well be forgiven for wondering what the point of doing so might be. We might even argue that the FAW doesn’t deserve the sort of people that would give up their time in this way.

And here is what is so puzzling about the decision reached by the Football Association of Wales. Even if we set to one side for a moment the moral aspect of all of this, there are solid, practical reasons why places should have been found higher up the ladder than the roped-off park pitches of the nether regions of the Welsh league system. For both Barry and Llanelli, as at so many other football clubs, activities do not end at ten to five on a Saturday afternoon. In Barry, for example, the club’s youth set-up had been catering for over one hundred young players. These are substantial towns which will now be left without senior clubs and in South Wales in a country national league system of which cannot afford to lose supporters. It has been suggested that one or both of these clubs might now seek to decamp to the English league system. There is an appeals process that they can go through, but it would be difficult to blame them if they did after the way that they have been treated.

When the Football Association, Premier League or others in England act in a high-minded manner, we might not agree with much of what they have to say, but these organisations can at least fall back on the success of the English league system as vindication, whether rightly or wrongly, f0r the decisions that they make. The Welsh league system doesn’t have this luxury. Surely, we might contend, the divisions of the Welsh League could only benefit from having clubs that are capable of attracting two or three hundred people to matches, which might increase the profile of the league. As things stand, however, the only way in which the profile that has been increased has been in the form of intense scrutiny, most of it highly critical, including this eviscerating response to events from the S4C television channel reporter Gary Pritchard. It is also instructive to note that an article which highlighted criticisms of the ruling also has been posted elsewhere. If there is general consensus on anything today, it seems to be that it is the governance of football in Wales which requires urgent review above anything else.

You can follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter by clicking here.

Share Button

    8 Comments

  1. My initial response was surprise that people were surprised at the FAW decision. They really are a rule unto themselves. During 2010-11 I spent 12 frustrating months as an External Independent Board Member at the FAW only to resign when it became clear that governance best practice had no role to play at the organisation – well at Councillor level at least. The Board was made up for around a dozen Councillors and two external members – I was one whilst the other was a partner at the FAW’s solicitors. So much for external and independent! The guy who replaced me is in fact the Chairman of the Welsh Football Trust – more or less a charitable offshoot of the FAW. External and independent indeed!
    The Board’s decisions had to go to Council to be passed and the external members did not see those agendas or minutes. Basically, we had no meaningful input as the system is geared to getting people up to Life Member status. They play a hugely political game to survive to that status – promising, cajoling and paying back favours – yet once they are voted into a position where no-one can get rid of them, they continue to have a vote on all FAW matters. They simply don’t have to give a fuck, so most of them don’t.
    A suggestion that the FAW instigate an independent governance review “won’t happen on my watch” were the stubborn words of the previous President, who’s joined an ever-increasing cabal of life councillors who wield power but are accountable to absolutely no-one. They are part of the problem, but then you have those who yearn to reach this sense in infallibility who make calculated decisions that benefit some at the expense of the others.

    President
    Mr Trefor Lloyd-Hughes (1989)

    Vice-Presidents
    Mr David Griffiths (1992)
    Mr David (Dai) Alun Jones (1994)

    Honorary Treasurer
    Mr K O’Connor (1998)

    Life Vice-Presidents (and dates of tenure)
    Mr T Forse (1966)
    Mr J O Hughes (1973)
    Mr T Evans MBE (1975)
    Mr B Fear BEM (1977)
    Mr D Shanklin (1978)
    Mr P Rees (1982)
    Mr Philip C Pritchard (1992)

    Life Councillors
    Mr I Williams (1987)
    Mr R Waygood (1986)
    Mr T V Harris (1988)
    Mr C Whitley (1986)
    Mr Ken Tucker (1989)

    I resigned well over 18 months ago, but my name still appears on the website as a Board Member which in turn, is seen as a Standing Committee of the Council rather than the body tasked with running football in Wales.

    It’s like wading through treacle wearing shoes made of lead, carrying two medicine balls and being blindfolded by people who are more concerned about what sandwiches were available for lunch, what freebies the kit men at the back of the offices might have for them and what was the level of insurance cover for the over 70′s on overseas visits.

    Apologies for the rant – this issue just highlights why a body with almost as many councillors as staff is doomed to self-preservation. And ultimately failure.

    Dylan Llewelyn Jones

    June 15, 2013

  2. Isn’t the, ‘we’re a big club, we shouldn’t have to start at the bottom’ argument the same one used by Rangers last season? I’m not sure i understand why Barry and Llanelli shouldn’t have to start life at the bottom of the pyramid?

    Ed

    June 15, 2013

  3. Rangers have started at the bottom of the pyramid. Llanelli and Barry have been refused that and told the equivalent of Rangers starting in the Junior Leagues around Glasgow

    Dylan Llewelyn Jones

    June 15, 2013

  4. I am flattered by your assumption that welsh-premier.com is the official website of the Welsh Premier League but it is, in truth, totally unofficial.
    Hence I am free to publish criticism of the FAW and anyone else for that matter in this scandalous affair involving Barry Town and Llanelli.

    Webmaster

    June 15, 2013

  5. Really well run website, and I blame myself for that. Have updated accordingly.

    Ian

    June 15, 2013

  6. The Glasgow junior leagues aren’t the bottom of the pyramid in scotland tho are they, the 3rd Division is, there being no promotion/relegation (yet) between the highland league and the east of scotland league and the SFL. For the record, i’d have had not problem with Rangers being placed in the junior leagues.

    Barry and Llanelli are new clubs, and regardless of their predecessors successes should be treated as such.

    Ed

    June 15, 2013

  7. Same players. Same fans. Same manager. Same ground. Same ethics. Same town. Different club? Pull the other one. Barry have been shafted on a technicality – their owner shafted them first, of course. But everyone knew for years the kind of man he was. Not least the FAW, who decreed they couldn’t actually do anything until he was out of the picture.

    The owner leaves the picture. And what do the FAW Councillors do? Stab Barry in the back. After apparently assuring them and anyone who would listen that their status in Division 3 of the Welsh League was stonewall. A huge stitch-up by men with vendettas, masquerading as protecting the game when really they were only protecting themselves and their seat at the sandwich table.

    I don’t see how anyone can see this decision as positive for football in Wales. Football which, under the auspices of the FAW, is dying on its backside – lower crowds just one of a multitude of problems. Barry took 200 fans to a Welsh Cup Semi-Final three hours away in April. Now in June, they aren’t welcome? How does that help anyone? In terms of gates, in terms of visibility, in terms of public engagement?

    The FAW Council is evidently an archaic structure, in need of urgent overhaul. Until this happens, and Barry receive reinstatement, I’d suggest the Welsh Assembly looks deep into the manager in which football is mis-managed in our country. The decision is the polar opposite to the way forward outlined in the FAW’s own Strategic Plan, which governmental figures had a big hand in. Not to mention that the FAW Council went AGAINST the mandate of their own Domestic Committee – with people voting one way in the first meeting changing sides in the second, almost certainly coerced to reject a proposal that saw Barry grouped with Llanelli – two vastly different cases (each with their own merits).

    In a nutshell – it is plain to see that dark forces have manuevuered Barry into this position – giving false assurances, leaking false information and declaring false actions, until they found themselves behind closed doors to effectively sign the death warrant.

    Who suffers? Supporters who’ve been attending since before the Second World War. Kids who have been enjoying their first taste of football watching their home town town. Youth players whose stems of upwards growth have been pulled out and spat on by men who don’t even live in their county.

    And then you have the individuals…. each face, male and female, young and old, no doubt astounded that firstly people could be so short-sighted, secondly so cruel and thirdly so apparently unaccountable for their actions.

    100 years of Barry Town football. An entity, a community, that in evolving forms survived wars, depressions, recessions, and had even survived a decade of tyranny as one destructive man’s plaything to FINALLY find itself in the hands of its people.

    Players, supporters, wifes and girlfriends, sponsors, advertisers, the local council… all finally on the same side, all set to take the club forward, together, united.

    And then this.

    This is the right decision?

    Have a think about it.

    The community company running Barry Town football for the last two seasons at a Welsh League level are still there. And yet now they can’t do this going forward – despite money being taken from them to do it for the aforementioned two years straight?

    On every conceivable level, this absolutely stinks.

    Barry Town United. The club with no debts and a bright future, that the FAW Councillors thought it was better to kill off that consider public opinion and utilise common sense. It’s not only the club that has been treated with disdain. Nor is it merely the community. It’s the entire game. And these men are supposed to being doing what’s best for it.

    This story has legs. The bigger the injustice, the greater the passion to fight it, and knowing the people at Barry, I know this passion is flowing through every vein at this moment.

    This is not a parks club, this is not a “recreational” club, this is a club of cultural value to the whole of Wales, representing the biggest town in Wales and that would have been set to bring through young players for decades to come.

    Stable and democratically-run, the BTSC company was about to take the Vale of Glamorgan youth academy under its wing.

    How are we meant to develop players for the national side and grow as a nation if postitive bodies like this are effectively shut out in the cold?

    There’s some good further reading on the topic here – http://jennerparkjournal.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/faw-council-plunges-barry-into-the-football-abyss/ – which reflects the widespread condemnation.

    Christopher Evans

    June 17, 2013

  8. Un-fucking-believable.

    I would have hoped things had changed in the past 10-12 years, but obviously running a football league takes a special blend of malfeasance, treachery and high-handedness.

    The LOW makes the Ryman League look professional.

    I can think of no lower insult.

    SW19 Womble

    June 17, 2013

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. FAW Council plunges Barry into the football abyss | The Jenner Park Journal - [...] 200% – “The Football Association of Wales sticks the knife into Barry Town United” [...]

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>