Lose League Status?

Friday, 6 September 2002, 0:00
3 mins read

Home > Story Index >Why Welsh Clubs May Lose Their League Status

Why Welsh clubs may lose their league status in the very near future…and be replaced by the Scottish!!
Talks are set to take place in London through September and October before a final conclusion is reached and could even be implemented by this time next year. The issue of regionalisation itself has received very little media coverage (those of you who made the trip to Bristol Rovers may have seen the article in the programme that assessed it briefly), thus many fans are unaware of the changes that will take place over the next few years. Therefore, this article examines the positive and negative aspects of regionalisation, changes being made in the Conference to soften the blow and how Welsh clubs could be omitted for Scottishones!

There appear to be two main driving forces behind the new regionalisation plans, thatwill see the second and third divisions thrown together and then split into Division 2 North and Division 2 South. Firstly,long distance travelling to face league opposition creates a further burden on the already deteriorating financial situation of many clubs, for example, Carlisle – Torquay, York – Swansea, etc. Obviously, thiswillincrease the number of local derbies which prove to be more popularwith supporters (compare thenumber of away fans that travelled to Bristol Rovers and Darlington).Coupled with the forceful nature of many first division chairmen – who either want to be distanced fromlower leagues or to be part of the rebel Phoenix League – the Football League has a problem on their hands. Therefore the Football League can let the current situation continue and see how many second and third division clubs are still functionning in 2003/04 and if the first division is still entact, or change things around a little. A change would heighten the status of Nationwide Division One (plus more money from TV coverage!!) and possibly save many lower league clubs from extinction.

However, there are also manynegative aspects to regionalisation. For example, the Football League will have to decide where to create the s for Northern and Southern competition – with the classic example being Bostonand Lincoln. These are two local rivals with a minimal distance between the two clubs, yet this season Boston have been added to the Southern draw for the LDV Vans Trophy whilst Lincoln are in the draw for the North. Where the ultimate aim is to create more local derbies, it is highly unlikely that each local dogfight will be maintained.

Last Christmas, I heard from insiders of top non-league football sides, that they had been approached by the FA in an almost identical fashion, to create a regional Conference League. This would involve the 22 teams already paticipating within the league and the top 14 from the Ryman, Dr Martens and Unibond leagues (in terms of attendances and facilities, etc) combining to create the Northern Conference and the Southern Conference – making non-league football completely regionalised. Months later, the Football League announced that two will be promoted from the Conference this season – only confirming the information that I had already received, in that when regionalisation is implemented, the champions of the Conference North and South will both achieve league status. Therefore, it appears that the foundations are in place to make a radical move and completely transform the lower football leagues.

Ironically, as one final worrying thought for Welsh supporters, this could mean that Swansea and Wrexham are relying on Cardiff to gain promotion to the First Division in the very near future. It was well publicised last year that if Swansea had "gone under", extreme pressure would have been placed upon Cardiff and Wrexham to retire into the League of Wales. Yet with three sides in the football league, FA bosses appear to have adopted the view that it is just enough to keep Welsh sides involved in the Nationwide divisions. Rumours have recently been flying around Britain that regionalisation could exclude the Welsh sides from the competition. Despite this, if Cardiff managed to fight their way into the Second Division, then the FA would find the task of removing Welsh clubs extremely difficult. The fact of the matter is that Cardiff’s support is the closest to hooliganism that the modern day game still keeps from the troubled 1980’s. Therefore if Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham are still in the lower leagues when regionalisation is implemented, they may be thrown reluctantly into the League of Wales – possibly being replaced by Scottish counterparts…a nightmare scenario!!

It must be noted that some of the points touched upon here are a little extreme and may not actually materialise. However one thing is for sure, I would rather watch Swansea vs York than Swansea vs Total Network Solutions!!

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