There are those to our East who assume some sort of cosy gentleman’s club relationship between Cardiff City and the Football Association of Wales. There is a suspicion that the first item on the agenda for every meeting between the two bodies is “How can we get you out of this one?”
The accusation has been made since a controversial decision in 2005 which saw the FAW rescind Darren Purse’s red card received for an over-the-top challenge on Burnley’s Andy Cole.
“I have played the game at the highest level for 18 years and some muppet tries to challenge me like that,” snapped Cole.
The accusation of bias was given more creditibility when it was discovered that the Chairman of the FAW’s Disciplinary Panel was a Ninian Park season-ticket holder. Harry Redknapp went apopleptic.
“Cardiff play in the English League, play in the English Cup, want to qualify to represent England in the UEFA Cup … and then, when they get a player sent off, it goes before the Welsh FA. How can that be right? It’s just unreal really.
The argument is ridiculous. English clubs always go before the English FA (so arrogant they don’t even use a national identifier – it’s just The FA). Is there a suggestion that the English FA will rescind a card every time that an English club has a key game against Welsh opposition? Do we know the club affiliations of the English FA’s Disciplinary Panels?
The accusations of bias astound local observers of Welsh football politics. Cardiff and the FAW have been sniping for years. The damage caused by the foundation of the League of Wales and subsequent exiling of some member clubs, (but not the biggest ones) has proved irreparable. Welsh football has been split for nearly twenty years now.
There is a paranoid suspicion that the FAW favour clubs in the League of Wales over the exiles who refused to join their National League and still play in the English system. Meanwhile, The LoW clubs suspect (with good cause) that some members of the FAW have been less than supportive of its own League as it struggles with its low profile.
Everybody blames the FAW for everything. In 2008 , Cardiff Chairman Peter Ridsdale openly threatened the FAW with resignation, and Dave Jones admitted a heated confrontation with Wales’ manager John Toshack. The FAW were forced to chase cash owed to them by Cardiff City after a friendly game at the Bluebirds’ ground. Against this background, accusations of favouritism hold no water.
Nonetheless, it looks like Redknapp will soon have his way as Cardiff look set to leave the FAW and become full members of the Football Association. When the English FA confirmed that it would allow Cardiff City to represent England in Europe if it won the FA Cup, Alun Evans of the FAW said “you might as well say that Cardiff is an English club and has no relevance to Welsh football“.
Well that will soon be the case.
If Cardiff (or Swansea) are promoted to the Premier League, then it is difficult to see how they could avoid FA membership. Sources at Leckwith suggest that they would prefer to play under the English Association whether promotion is achieved or not. That situation complicates an already confusing relationship between the English Premier League and Wales.
The English Premier League’s rules state that each of its member clubs should include 8 home-grown players:
A home-grown player is a player who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales.
Why have they included Wales there? It doesn’t make sense. Why not Scotland or Northern Ireland? Or just England? By the Welsh inclusion, EPL are recognising that it does have some historical affiliation with those Welsh clubs who have been members of The (not specifically English) Football League for 100 years before UEFA rulings formalised it as England’s Representative League . If that’s the case, why would Cardiff City or Swansea City need or want to change?
Well currently they have no automatic route to European football as UEFA have been rejecting the FAW’s appeal to allow Welsh clubs who play in English Leagues to represent Wales via the Welsh Cup since 1999. . There is a precedent in Europe: Liechtenstein side FC Vaduz play in Swiss Challenge League (second division) but qualify for Europe as Liechtenstein’s representative by not entering the Swiss Cup and taking part in the Liechtenstein Cup, which they invariably win.
Vaduz’s participation in the Swiss league does come with certain conditions. The Liechtenstein side will forego some income from TV and marketing deals and will pay a special fee to the Swiss Football Association to play in the top division, and they cannot be Swiss champions even if they win the league. Their only chance of competing in Europe will remain winning the Liechtenstein Cup. (UEFA.COM)
For whatever reason, probably the lack of political independence, UEFA do not accept the same situation in Wales, but if Cardiff or Swansea reach the Premiership, this precedent looks worrying. Will Cardiff or Swansea be forced to pay a special fee to the EPL? Will they be cut out of TV and marketing deals?
Cardiff cannot rely on the generosity of the Football Association. When Cardiff reached the FA Cup Final in 2008, the FA’s position was seemingly clear cut. Cardiff would not be allowed to represent England before changing their mind on hearing that Platini backed Cardiff’s entry. However, Cardiff cannot rely on the wildcard place that UEFA were prepared to offer in that case for sporting reasons.
The situation appears to be less complicated if Cardiff simply cut all Welsh ties, and join the English FA. The future would be rosy for the club and many years of Champions League success will follow.
But wait a minute – think about it. There are all sorts of questions that would need to be answered.
- Currently, I don’t think member clubs of the English FA are allowed to run academies in Wales. Would Cardiff’s Academy be forced to relocate across the border?
- What about player quotas? As Cardiff’s shift to England emphasises the gap between the two footballing neighbours, how will player quotas be affected? As UEFA look to impose “local player” quotas, will Cardiff be required to offer a place to eight English-born players in their squad?
- We can say goodbye to Cardiff City Stadium as a home international venue if City leave the FAW. Likewise, if Swansea join the English FA, The Liberty Stadium would not be considered, leaving only Parc Y Scarlets as a useable medium sized venue for international football.
- If Cardiff and Swansea are given permission to join the English FA, then it could start an evacuation. Colwyn Bay, Newport and Merthyr could all jump ship.
- Cardiff will never feel like full members of the FA. Imagine the outcry if there is a major incident involving Cardiff supporters, or if Cardiff denied an English club their place in Europe. There would be a torch-burning mob gathered at Soho Square demanding expulsion of the Welsh intruders.
Effectively, if Cardiff leave the FAW, they will become exiles. As Newport County were FAW members playing in England, so Cardiff City will be English FA members playing in Wales. And that will make them Welsh by geography only. And worst of all – there will be a little English flag next to the club’s name in books and websites and wallcharts and computer games as long as that situation remains.
It is still arguable whether UEFA will permit the Welsh clubs to join the English FA, but the momentum seems unstoppable now, and next season, Cardiff City’s proud history as a flag-bearing Welsh club could come to a necessary end.