Three ideas a year and all four of them are wrong

20 03 2015

First there was the “League of Wales”, then there was the “Welsh Premier League super twelve of stupefaction”, now there’s something new!

Let’s here it for the “3G five year plan for the vague possibility of something beneficial in the short to medium term period and the vague sliver of a chance of the suspicion of a golden future”.

Then Murdoch announced plans to televise matches on a Friday evening. The golden future reverted to leaden pall, the principality of powerful ideas reverted to an ashen face;

TV deal raises concerns over impact on Welsh Premier League

The English Premier League recently sold television rights to its games for a record £5.1bn, 71% above last time.

Sky paid £4.2bn for five of the seven TV packages while rival BT paid £960m for the other two in the record TV rights auction. The deal will run for three years from 2016 and Sky’s package will include the first ever games on a Friday, which has been a popular evening for Welsh Premier clubs. So how will televised English Premier League football affect the Premier League in Wales? BBC Wales Sport finds out.

Gwyn Derfel, Corbett Sport Welsh Premier League secretary

It’s been no secret that Friday night attendances have been the highest we have been attracting in the league. I know clubs have tried to target Friday evenings in the past so the [new Premier League TV deal] is going to be another challenge. The news of Friday night games is not going to be great for our league. But I think there is going to be a point where people get fed up of seeing one product and hopefully they’ll be looking for something more accessible and football they can relate to

Gwyn Derfel succeeded John Deakin as Welsh Premier League secretary

I wouldn’t say it a wasn’t a worry but we have to be confident that we’re promoting ourselves as good quality family football which is value for money. Hopefully people will still be supportive of our league and we can see the league taking further strides forward, But with the 3G project [to invest in hard-wearing pitches] I think clubs have got to accept that attendances are not the main drivers for revenue in clubs these days. The 3G policy has had its detractors but as the secretary of the league I’m fully behind that initiative. If you look at Newtown for example, from a commercial aspect, their pitch is I believe at 95% capacity which exceeds their business plan. It’s bringing more people into the club and gives those youngsters who play on the pitch an affinity with the club at a young age. It’s inevitable that we are going to be compared with big brother next door and of course that brings with it significant challenges. But the Barclays Premier League is a different world from where we’re at.

Brian Mackie, Cefn Druids chairman

The reason we switch to Friday matches is because we compete with Wrexham on a Saturday. Wrexham fans are diehard supporters so it’s very hard to attract them here but we do tend to get more coming to see us when Wrexham are going through a bad spell. By playing on a Friday they get the option of watching both clubs and it works for us.

The Rock in Rhosymedre has been Cefn Druids’ home since 2010

But the new Premier League deal which will see games being played on a Friday night would have a really bad effect on us. It might be easier for fans on a winter’s night to stay in and watch the Premier League rather than come here. People have only got so much money to spend so we try and keep prices low. We wanted to raise the prices but then we couldn’t get people through the gate. Summer football has been mentioned in the past but the club is against it. If the league did switch to summer football, it wouldn’t go back to winter so it would need to be seriously considered.

Marc Lloyd Williams, Welsh Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer

Welsh Premier League clubs have traditionally preferred Friday night games because for clubs in north Wales it doesn’t clash with the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United. South Wales clubs have had to compete with the success of Swansea and Cardiff over recent years.

Marc Lloyd Williams’s Welsh Premier League clubs included Bangor City, The New Saints and Rhyl

We might even see clubs move games to Thursday nights if there are big televised games on a Friday. I think Port Talbot played on a Thursday last year to try it out. But the other option would be to go to summer football. You’ve got your traditionalists who prefer their football to be played during the winter months But with Sky and BT Sports pumping all this money into English football, something has got to give. Maybe the traditionalists have got to give way to summer football if this new deal is going to affect attendances and the progress of the Welsh Premier League clubs.

You can see just what a glorious future Welsh football faces, how dare Murdoch cast his shadow upon it!;

“But with the 3G project I think clubs have got to accept that attendances are not the main drivers for revenue in clubs these days.”

Let us bask in this glorious vision of a glorious future before it’s too late, let us revel in the concept of “football club as glorified leisure centre”, a world where football clubs mean nothing to nobody. Contemplating this future from the broken escalator of our present – a predestined lack of success in the unyielding boredom of the once tragic, now farcical, super twelve – is enough to make the most devout fan of Welsh football question their choice of weekend leisure activity.

The 3G plan may have hit the Murdoch buffers but the powers that be have resolutely reapplied their powers in the last week, They have decided to fight back with their latest reheated brainwave of azure sky clarity……………summer football.

The FAW are so keen to improve the standard of the the majority semi-professional Welsh Premier League they want to play matches when most semi-professional players deign to go on holiday from their day-jobs. When we consider the prospective legions of new fans watching sun-drenched samba soccer whilst sunbathing in sunkist stands we can also consider the old maxim that if the man had wanted the people of Wales to play football in the summer he wouldn’t have invented Welsh summers.

Besides this how are the FAW able to consign last month’s latest flavour of a brave new 3G world to the dustbin of history so casually? Surely the Welsh weather won’t pose a problem for these technopitches, they’re said to weave their economic miracles in all weathers!

The Welsh Premier league is a typical semi-pro league – interesting to those that are moved to take an interest but it doesn’t mean that much in the rest of the football world – yet the powers that seem intent on alienating at least some of their “audience”. The WPL may be a national league that’s theoretically equal with Murdoch’s premier league and it may have excellent coverage on a national broadcaster (the best aspect of the WPL) but it’s still a semi-pro league with a semi-pro culture.

The vision of the future that certain people want certainly isn’t rosy, a spirit crushing league that’s engineered to be underpopulated, played at the wrong time of the year on identikit surfaces of the wrong nature. It’s a vision of the future that involves a boot stamping on a sense of enjoyment for eternity.

Luckily some journalists, like the fantastic and lovely Dave Jones of The Daily Post, are capable of formulating cogent and progressive ideas about the future of Welsh football. Will anyone listen to their sober advice?




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