The Structure of Welsh Football

The nation’s most successful clubs play in the English professional and semi professional leagues, In the professional football league Cardiff city and Swansea City can be found in the Championship which is only one league below the English Premier League, both of these teams are in strong positions to challenge for promotion. Traditionally Wrexham from the North of Wales were also a league team but have fallen on hard times in recent years and are now plying their trade in the Blue Square Premier (BSP) League which is comprised by a mix of professional and semi-professional teams. From the season commencing 2010/11 Newport county, another team with a previous league pedigree will join them in the BSP, below this are Colwyn Bay (North Wales) and Merthyr Tydfill (South Wales).

These six teams remained in the English football system despite the inception of the League of Wales in 1992 believing their future was more prosperous over the border. Despite playing in English leagues, these six teams remain members of the Welsh football Association and fall under it’s governing rules. Welsh teams playing in English leagues historically would enter the Welsh Cup which could provide entrance to the European Cup Winners Cup, however in 1996 the FAW decided that only teams competing within the welsh fotball system should be lalowed entrance and therefore gain the reward of European football.

The Welsh Pyramid System

There is one league in Wales which covers all of the principality, this is at the top of the pyramid of welsh football and is commonly known as the Welsh Premier League which was formed in October 1991 due to growing concerns that the lack of a national league could threaten the countries independence in international football. This league is comprised of 18 clubs, however in June 2009 the clubs accepted a league restructure to 12 teams, known as the “super 12” which will come into force for the 2010-11 season.

The winners of the Welsh Premier League are invited to represent Wales by competing in the UEFA Champions League. Due to the standing of Welsh football the club enters the first qualification round, to date no Welsh team has made it’s way through qualification to compete in the prestigious group stages of the league which includes the famous European heavy weights such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Manchester United and many more. The second and third placed teams in the Welsh Premier and the winners of the Welsh Cup are invited to play in the various Europa League qualification rounds.

The second tier of Welsh football is regionalised into a North League (Cymru Alliance) and a South League (Welsh Football League). The winners of each league are promoted to the welsh Premier league providing their ground reaches the minimum standards on safety, ground capacity and general ground facilities. If the winning team’s league is not of the required standard then the right to promotion is passed to the league’s runners up.

The Cymru Alliance League is one division and is fed by three regional areas, each wth their own league structure of various numbers of divisions. These three feeder leagues are known as the Mid Wales league, the Welsh national League for Wrexham and the North Wales Coast league (Welsh Alliance League). The winners of these teams can gain promotion to the Cymru Alliance league, again dependent on ground conditions but in the conditions are less strict than those to gain promotion to the Welsh Premier League.