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Football League of Wales

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A Welsh football dragon

The National Football League of Wales was formed in 1992. The founder clubs were as follows:

  • Abergavenny Thursdays
  • Aberystwyth
  • Afan Lido
  • Bangor City
  • Briton Ferry
  • Caersws
  • Conwy United
  • Connahs Quay Nomads
  • Cwmbran
  • Ebbw Vale
  • Flint Town United
  • Haverfordwest County
  • Holywell Town
  • Inter Cardiff
  • Llanelli
  • Llanidloes
  • Maesteg Park
  • Mold Alexandra
  • Newtown
  • Porthmadog

Up until this point, Wales did not have a national league of its own and was unique in world football in that its major clubs played over the border in the English leagues, although in 1999 FIFA1 sanctioned a team from Auckland, New Zealand entering the Australian Football League. Also, Berwick Rangers of England have always played in the Scottish Football League, for geographical reasons.

Despite its good intentions, the Football Association of Wales, or the FAW, stirred up a hornet's nest by insisting that every club in Wales, bar the three professional clubs (Wrexham, Cardiff City and Swansea City, who remain in the English Football League) and Merthyr Tydfil2 must enter the new league.

Turbulent Beginnings

Eight semi-professional clubs3 refused to enter the League of Wales and the 'Irate Eight', as they were dubbed, began legal proceedings against the FAW. However, before the inaugural season the 'Irate Eight' were reduced to five clubs as Bangor City, Rhyl and Newtown decided to enter the League of Wales. As Rhyl's application to join the inaugural league was late, they were therefore 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 and before long, five became four, with Barry Town, which is currently the only professional club within the League of Wales, joining 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; Caernarfon Town decided to join the League of Wales, however. Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport County remain in the English league pyramid system.

Why Create a Welsh League?

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have, as the world's oldest Football Associations, a permanent seat on FIFA's ruling council. This is a sore point with the vast majority of African and Asian associations, especially considering Wales had no national league of its own, and its major clubs played in the English league pyramid system.

The FAW decided they needed to set up a national league or face losing their political clout within FIFA, and possibly face a call for the home countries to merge into a single British association.

Is It a Good Thing or Bad Thing?

One big plus to having a national league is that since the formation of the League of Wales, more Welsh clubs have participated in European Club Competitions. Previously only one Welsh club participated in Europe each season, the Welsh Cup being the only avenue into European competition. Since 1992, Welsh clubs have also competed in the Champions' Cup, UEFA Cup4 and Intertoto Cup.

Barry Town's exploits in European competition have certainly raised the standards of Welsh football. Their finest moments came in the 1996/97 UEFA Cup campaign when, having defeated Dinaburg of Latvia and Budapest Vasutas of Hungary in the earlier rounds, Barry faced the Scottish Premier League side Aberdeen, who had, under their previous manager Sir Alex Ferguson, won the European Cup Winner's Cup and European Super Cup in 1983 as well as the Scottish Championship in 1983, 1984 and the Scottish Cup in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986. Having lost the first leg 3-1 away at Pittodrie, Barry needed an early goal in the home leg at Jenner Park and within five minutes O'Gorman did exactly that. Unfortunately for Barry, Aberdeen were too strong and the game ended in a 3-3 draw, Aberdeen progressing to the next round 6-4 on aggregate.

On the down side, the league is not yet big enough to sustain the professional clubs and for that very reason it is not a truly national league.

Roll Of Honour

League Of Wales Champions

  • 1992/1993 Cwmbran Town
  • 1993/1994 Bangor City
  • 1994/1995 Bangor City
  • 1995/1996 Barry Town
  • 1996/1997 Barry Town
  • 1997/1998 Barry Town
  • 1998/1999 Barry Town
  • 1999/2000 TNS Llansantffraid
  • 2000/2001 Barry Town
1The International Football Federation that administers the 'Beautiful Game' on a global level.2Merthyr Tydfil were, at the time, playing in the Football Conference, one division lower than the Football League, and were handed a three year dispensation in order to reach the Football League.3Bangor City, Barry Town, Caernarfon Town, Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport County, Newtown and Rhyl.4UEFA are the European administrative body for football.

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