Women’s football: FAW announce the make-up of new tiers

Swansea City celebrate
Swansea City Ladies were league and cup winners in 2020-21

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) has confirmed the teams for Tier 1 and Tier 2 in their major re-structure of the women’s domestic game in Wales.

The top tier remains a national league with a regionalised second tier.

Fifteen clubs applied for eight tier one spaces, with current top-flight sides Abergavenny, Cyncoed, Briton Ferry Llansawel and Cascade YC amongst those missing out.

New names in the top division are Barry Town United and The New Saints.

The FAW announced in May 2020 that they were revamping the structure for 2021-22 aimed at increasing participation in the women’s game in Wales, and that the recreational level will be allowed more flexibility in the rules and regulations to achieve this objective.

Underneath the new South and North Tier 2 leagues there will be recreational leagues run by area associations at Tier 3 and Tier 4, while a new under-19 development league will also be introduced.

The licences for Tier 1 and Tier 2 clubs were awarded after review by an independent panel following a process in consultation with Fifa. Criteria considered included sporting, financial sustainability, human resources, facilities and marketing.

Tier 1: Aberystwyth Town, Barry Town United, Cardiff City, Cardiff Met University, Pontypridd Town, Port Talbot Town, Swansea City and The New Saints

Tier 2 North: Airbus UK Broughton, Bethel, Connah’s Quay Nomads, Denbigh Town, Llandudno, Llanfair United, Pwllheli and Wrexham.

Tier 2 South: Abergavenny, Briton Ferry Llansawel, Caldicot Town, Cardiff Bluebelles, Cascade YC, Merthyr Tow, Talycopa, Swansea University.

Abergavenny, who finished fourth in the 2020-21 Welsh Women’s Premier League (WWPL), are unhappy at having lost their top-flight status, placed instead in Tier 2 South. Manager Craig Morgan-Hill claimed on social media he had been contacted by seven out of the other eight teams in this season’s WWPL stating their shock and anger at the decision.

In a club statement Abergavenny said: “We passed the FAW Tier 1 licence application, a process that was levied at clubs during a global pandemic. This meant that our infrastructure and facilities were not in question.

“Devastatingly we were not hand-picked as one of the eight teams. However, two clubs that have been selected have never played in the top tier of Welsh Women’s football.

“The scoring matrix used for the selection process has been requested by the club which will give us the ability to focus on what the FAW felt our shortcomings were.

“To date, our scoring and the actual scoring matrix used by the FAW have been withheld from all clubs. This is an unfair process which we feel is unclear and not transparent.”

Cascade YC and Briton Ferry Llansawel also expressed their disappointment via social media.

A total of 37 teams applied for the top 24 available places in the restructured Wales women’s league which will begin with an as yet unannounced new identity in August 2021.

“It’s been inspiring to see the level of work clubs have put into their application,” said Lowri Roberts, FAW’s head of women’s football.

“We’ve seen a real shift in mindset from the clubs in how they are developing elite environments for players and how they are building for a sustainable future.

“Through implementing an open application process for entry into the new leagues, a club’s place was not solely down to sporting merit but also robust club structures.

“It has made clubs review their entire structure, playing pathways and the provision they provide players.

“As a result, all clubs will be collectively striving to continuously improve standards in a competitive environment.”

BBC News