Welsh Premier League


Welsh Premier League

Infobox football league

pixels = 150
country = WAL
confed = UEFA
founded = 1992
teams = 18
relegation = Cymru Alliance
Welsh Football League First Division|
domest_cup = Welsh Cup
FAW Premier Cup
confed_cup = Champions League
UEFA Cup
Intertoto Cup|
champions = Llanelli
season = 2007–08
most successful club = Barry Town
(7 times)|
website = http://www.welshpremiership.com/Default.ink
current = 2008–09
The Welsh Premier League 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.

A troubled start

The league was formed in 1992 by Alun Evans, Secretary General of the Football Association of Wales, as he 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. Aberdare Athletic, Cardiff City, Merthyr Town, Newport County, Swansea City and Wrexham have all been members of the Football League. Famously, Oswestry Town F.C. an English team did the reverse and played within the Welsh football pyramid until they merged with Total Network Solutions in 2003 (which became The New Saints in 2006).

Because of poor transportation links, it has always been much easier for Welsh clubs to travel east-west than north-south so clubs tended to look east to England for competitors and many of the top semi-professional sides in Wales also played in the English football league; Bangor City were founder members of the Football Conference (then the Alliance Premier League) in 1979 and reached the FA Trophy final in 1984, before transferring to the new League of Wales in 1992.

The formation of the League of Wales saw the start of a bitter dispute between the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and those non-league clubs who wanted to remain part of the English football league. 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.

Demographics

One of the problems facing the league is its failure to attract teams from the major population centres which hampers the chances of high attendances at matches. In addition, as the largest centres of population, Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham are home to teams playing in the English Football League system, it is debatable whether a club from those areas would have the support to be competitive in the Welsh Premier League. As such, the League is made up of clubs from smaller towns and even villages. It has recently been proposed that these 'English' clubs could field reserve or representative teams in the league.

Promotion and relegation

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.

No teams were promoted to the Premier League following the 2005/06 season. However, Cardiff Grange Quins, who finished bottom of the top division, resigned leaving the league to operate with an odd number of clubs for 2006/07.

Eighteen clubs competed in the Welsh Premiership for the 2007/08 season as both Neath Athletic (Welsh Football League) and Llangefni Town (Cymru Alliance) have been promoted while Cwmbran Town have been relegated to Division 1 of the Welsh League. For 2008/09, Prestatyn Town will play in the league for the first time after promotion form the alliance, while Llangefni Town will once again play in the alliance after only one season.

Future change

The 18 Welsh Premier League clubs met on April 13, 2008 and voted to support a restructuring proposal put forward by Welsh Premier League secretary John Deakin which would replace the single Welsh Premier League with a First and Second Division with 10 teams in each Division for the 2010-11 season.

A further proposal was accepted that the Football Association of Wales should take full control of the Welsh Premier League and the existing Company, 'Football League of Wales Limited' should be dissolved.

These proposals were forwarded to the Football Association of Wales for their consideration. [cite news |url=http://www.welshpremiership.com/news/WelshPrem33645.ink |title= Clubs vote to Re-structure the League |work= Welsh Premier League | date= 2008-04-13 |accessdate= 2008-04-13]

European competition

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. If the winners of the Welsh Cup have already qualified for Europe via their league placing (e.g. finishing first and winning the Cup) the third placed team inherits the UEFA Cup spot, and the Intertoto spot passes on to the fourth placed league side.

Results in Europe have been mixed-some notable successes, such as Barry Town's run to the first round proper of the UEFA Cup, drawing 3-3 with Aberdeen F.C. at Jenner Park, and Barry's 3-1 victory over FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League, combined with some heavy defeats, such as TNS' 12-1 aggregate defeat to Amica Wronki of Poland.

The aforementioned Barry Town have been by some way the most successful Welsh side in Europe in the league's 15-year history, winning a total of six games in Europe.

In recent times results in Europe have generally improved vastly, where in the past Welsh sides had been on the wrong end of some heavy scorelines, all Welsh sides now enter Europe with the realistic aim of at least winning their first round tie. In the last two years particularly European results have been good, with Rhyl F.C., Carmarthen Town and Llanelli A.F.C. all enjoying success.

Media coverage

There is no doubt that the advent of the League has brought increased media coverage for its member clubs. Although there is sometimes complaint about the lack of it at times, the league does enjoy coverage by the Welsh national (notably the Western Mail and Daily Post) and local press. The league also enjoys a weekly magazine show broadcast on S4C in Wales and throughout the rest of the UK, Sgorio Cymru, and occasional live matches have been broadcast both on BBC Wales and S4C. Welsh Clubs' European games are sometimes broadcast live also, again, usually on the BBC or S4C (although TNS's Champions League tie against Liverpool was live on ITV2).

Teams for 2008-09

Current teams in the Welsh Premier are:

Record League Champions

Players

Marc Lloyd-Williams, who was released by Bangor City at the end of the 2006/07 season, has scored 255 goals in 363 appearances in the League of Wales, making him the most prolific goalscorer in the league's history [http://www.welsh-premier.com/scorers_alltime.php] .

Colin Reynolds holds the record for the number of appearances in the League of Wales [http://www.welsh-premier.com/players_alltime.php] .

ponsorship

Below is a list of the League's sponsors and what they chose to name the competition:
*1992: Konica Peter Llewellyn Limited of Swansea (Konica League of Wales)
*1993-2001: "No sponsor" .
*2002-2004: JT Hughes Mitsubishi (JT Hughes Mitsubishi Welsh Premiership)
*2004-2006: Vauxhall Masterfit Retailers (Vauxhall Masterfit Retailers Welsh Premier League)
*2006-Present: Principality Building Society (Principality Building Society Welsh Premier Football League)

ee also

*Welsh football pyramid
*Welsh Cup
*FAW Premier Cup

External links

* [http://www.welshpremier.com/ Official Principality Welsh Premier League website]
* [http://www.welsh-premier.com/ Unofficial website for the Welsh Premier League]
* [http://www.wfda.co.uk/ Welsh Football Data Archive website]

References


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