QED really

18 05 2010

If you’ve been reading these pages over recent weeks you may have noticed that Bangor are due to play in European competition this summer. If you have noticed that then you may have gone on to notice that Bangor can only draw certain teams. Bangor are unseeded you see, indeed all Welsh clubs are unseeded.  

We got to thinking; why are Welsh teams always unseeded? This question led on to another; why do Wales always have a very hard group with at least 2 other good countries when trying to qualify for major competitions?, which led to another; why do our clubs always draw skillful teams that are that little bit too good? Is it an Anti-Welsh conspiracy? Is it English-funded corruption? 

Despite the well-known evidence (England always get an easier group, the “business dealings” of Terry Venables etc, etc) these theories are probably untrue. We need to think of reasons for the tough draws. UEFA usually use the scientific method of looking at previous results to judge seedings.

This should indicate that teams representing Wales have a poor record historically. Why is this the case? Is it anything to do with the fact that Wales is one of the smallest – therefore one of the weakest – countries in Europe? Is it  simply about size?

Let’s look at the stats.

1.    Russia – 141,950,000
2.    Germany – 82,210,000
3.    Turkey – 71,517,100
4.    France – 64,473,140
5.    Italy – 59,337,888
6.    England – 51,446,000 
7.    Ukraine –46,398,114
8.    Spain – 46,157,822
9.    Poland – 38,115,967
10.  Romania – 22,329,977
11.  Netherlands – 16,402,414
12.  Kazakhstan – 16,004,800 
13.  Greece – 11,147,000
14.  Portugal – 10,605,870
15.  Belgium – 10,445,852
16.  Czech Republic – 10,241,138
17.  Hungary – 10,076,000
18.  Belarus – 9,755,000
19.  Sweden – 9,234,209
20.  Azerbaijan – 8,621,000
21.  Austria – 8,206,524
22.  Bulgaria – 7,761,000
23.  Israel – 7,465,000
24.  Serbia – 7,365,507
25.  Switzerland – 7,252,000
26.  Slovakia – 5,431,363
27.  Denmark – 5,415,978
28.  Finland – 5,261,008
29.  Scotland – 5,168,500
30.  Norway – 4,671,700
31.  Georgia – 4,661,473
32.  Croatia – 4,551,000
33.  Republic of Ireland – 4,234,925
34.  Moldova – 4,148,000
35.  Bosnia and Herzegovina – 3,907,000
36.  Lithuania – 3,596,617
37.  Armenia – 3,229,900
38.  Albania – 3,130,000
39.  WALES – 3,004,600
40.  Latvia – 2,290,237
41.  Kosovo – 2,100,000 (Partially recognised)
42.  Macedonia – 2,034,000
43.  Slovenia – 2,011,070
44.  Northern Ireland – 1,775,000
45.  Estonia – 1,332,893
46.  Cyprus – 818,200
47.  Montenegro – 620,145
48.  Luxembourg – 468,571
49.  Malta – 402,668
50.  Iceland – 304,334
51.  Andorra – 67,000
52.  Faroe Islands – 48,660
53.  Liechtenstein – 35,000
54.  San Marino – 28,000

(For this part we are referring to the national teams but you can generalise the points made to encompass the Welsh clubs in European competition.)

As there are only 15 countries in UEFA with smaller populations it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Wales struggle to improve their position, they are consistently outnumbered.

The bare statistics suggest that Wales have less males from which to choose players. In fact not only do we have a smaller number of men from which to choose we  have to share the men of footballing age – 15-30 years old – (19% of the Welsh Population) with the egg-chasing fraternity. The amount of eligible bachelors ready to bleed for Welsh clubs could be fewer than 10% of Wales’ population. What about the poets, the singers, the effete fops, the drunks and the layabouts for which Wales is rightly world-famous I hear you ask. Subtract these Bohemians and only 3% of our population possesses the requisite grace and deportment for international football. 3%!!!

These ideas are mostly related to qualifying or progress, if teams representing Wales ever hope to achieve success we will warn them in the style of a Goodfella;  “EEEEEHHHHHHHH, forged ’bout it!!!!”. Here are the Countries that have won either a European Championship, a World Cup or both;

Soviet Union – 293,047,571
Brazil – 198,739,269
Germany – 82,210,000
France – 64,473,140
Italy – 59,337,888
England – 51,446,000
Spain – 46,157,822
Argentina – 40,913,584
Czechoslovakia  – 15,600,000 
Greece – 11,147,000
Denmark – 5,415,978
Uruguay – 3,494,382
WALES – 3,004,600

Apart from the last three, glorious, anomalies (Uruguay is anomalous due to the nature of world football in the early 20th century. A cohesive team with an effective style could look streets ahead of their nearest challengers simply because they’d been allowed to develop in isolation, far, far away. It is of course an impressive feat none the less), any country that has ever won anything has a population many times that of Wales. Therefore we should forget about glory. When you add in the nations that have the potential to become the new powerhouses of world football, it’s even more depressing.

USA – 307,212,123
China – 1,338,612,968
India – 1,156,897,766
Australia – 21,262,641
Japan – 127,078,679
South Korea – 48,508,972
Saudi Arabia – 28,686,633
Iran – 66,429,284
Nigeria – 149,229,090
Cameroon – 18,879,301
Egypt – 78,866,635
South Africa – 49,052,489
WALES – 3,004,600

We haven’t got a prayer!

Despite the demographic evidence some people will moan that Welsh teams should be doing better, usually this moaning is woven into general moaning at Toshack. Other football fans will be optimists. They will point to Denmark, Greece or Uruguay and say; “Hey, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility!!” They may point to Slovenia, Latvia and Ireland and say; “Hey!!! If they can do it then we can too.” You know something,  they maybe right. We could qualify again one day!!!! Demographics or no demographics. 

Of course it’s not that simple in terms of club football, it’s not just about demographics. If you look at the first list Croatia and Denmark are countries with small populations but they have both enjoyed relative or actual successes in football, they’ve had both had world stars, both have great clubs etc etc. Both countries have useful teams in other sports too;  Basketball in Croatia’s case and Handball in Denmark’s. In these terms they are exactly like Wales, a small country that plays more than one sport to a relatively high standard. Therefore size is not the determining factor, so what is it?

What do the football clubs in countries like Denmark and Croatia have that Welsh ones don’t? The answer is very simple; a  professional football league to play in. There maybe some mileage in this. 

While Wales is 39th (out of 53) on the list of populations it is in 46th place  in UEFA’s club rankings. Denmark is 27th in terms of population but 15th in UEFA’s rankings, and Croatia is in 32nd and 27th places respectively. Wales’ position isn’t helped by their pro clubs,  all 4 of ’em, playing in another country’s system.

Despite all of the plans; “Super 12”, “Fabulous 15”, “Scintilatin’ 16”, Summer Football, etc etc, this problem in intractable, a fully professional league just doesn’t seem sustainable. Just witness Rhyl’s fall from grace yesterday, they had been trying to spend their way to greatness. Until there is a pro league in Wales the situation won’t really improve unfortunately and this won’t happen for a long time, if ever.

We’ll return to the subject of Wales’ national football league being 100 years out of date shortly.




4 responses

25 05 2010

We shall hope it comes to pass comrade!!

25 05 2010

We shall be see you lot up here if you get a Scottish team!

19 05 2010

No I’m quite aware of Kinkladze’s autobiography “My part in Bobby Gould’s downfall”

18 05 2010

Another point you forget to mention is the political change in Europe since the fall of the Soviet Union et al. There are simply a lot more teams competing for places than before the 1990s, and a lot more good teams at that. Whilst Wales always had a chance of getting one of the two automatic places in both the 1970s and 1980s the situation is now almost impossible; second doesn’t even guarantee a play-off place anymore and even if a place is secured then one of the top European sides will have to be dispatched over two-legs (with positive drug test ignored), a problem that is not encountered by Uruguay.

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