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Wales, rugby and football


The Welsh Premier League is a bit of a cinderella in the world of non-league football.   This is reflected in the rather limited coverage it gets in The Non-League Paper and low attendances.   These are compounded by the fact that two of the leading non-league teams in the principality, Wrexham and Newport County, play in the Conference.

It did a get of a boost in the days of the modern version of a works team, Total Network Systems, leading to inevitable jokes about 'dancing in the streets of Total Network Systems'.  But the company got taken over and now TNS stands for The New Saints.

This year Neath went out of business and Llanelli survived a winding up order in the High Court.  So it's not surprising to hear a call for a total revamp of the Welsh Premier League.   The central idea being put forward is that clubs should become feeder clubs for the likes of Cardiff and Swansea.

It's not a bad idea, although nursery clubs as such are banned by FA rules (in my view a mistake). But you can be a de facto feeder club: think Crewe Alexandria.

What is missing from the article is any discussion of the Welsh attachment to rugby and the effect that this can have on attendances.   It's a structural issue which is not going to go away.

In England it is not unheard of for football and rugby clubs to ground share which makes more effective use of a capital asset, although it may not be that good for the pitch.

Bristol City have taken things a step further by putting the football club and the rugby club under the umbrella of one company, although that reflects the role of majority City shareholder Stephen Lansdown who has also acquired the rugby club.

Whether the rugby club will move to Ashton Gate remains unclear.   Stephen Lansdown has plans to move to a new stadium, albeit progress has been slow, and it may not be worth investing in a new playing surface.

To a large extent, rugby and football appeal to different audiences, although I certainly know people who go fo both.   Rugby league has its roots in the north, with strong teams from towns which don't have any Football League representation.   Historically, rugby union in the south of England was a game for the middle and upper classes, but in Wales it appeals to the nation as a whole.