A dying state: What’s wrong with futsal in Wales?

Lack of communication and organisation from the FAW has led to clubs taking matters into their own hands

THE current state of futsal in Wales has prompted concern from those involved in the sport that the game is being left to rot.

The FAW has received backlash over its handling of the sport and has been criticised for allegedly showing a lack of interest.   

With a national league beset by organisational issues and a national team that hasn’t played a competitive game since 2021, many clubs have voiced their disapproval at how the game is being run.

“They need to start listening to us,” said Andrew Ruscoe who helps coach FC United of Wrexham.

“I want to say we believe in the FAW, but they are too disengaged with what’s going on at the grassroots and amateur level of the game.”

What is futsal?

The sport was invented in 1933 by Juan Carlos Ceriani, a schoolteacher from Montevideo, Uruguay, who wanted to create an indoor version of football for youth clubs.

Played between two teams of five players on an indoor court, the game demands a heavy emphasis on ball control, creativity and technique because of the smaller pitch length.

The rules are almost identical to football, except for the inclusion of roll-on roll-off substitutes and the absence of an offside rule.

Popular in many South American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, the sport has been credited with helping the likes of Lionel Messi, Pele, and Ronaldinho develop their abilities.

“From a player development point of view, futsal teaches you to think quickly on the pitch and react quickly,” said Ralph Carter who coaches Newport United.

“Younger children should start their adventure with football by playing with the ball on the grass and on the court at the same time.”

A non-existent national league

There is already a national futsal league in Wales called the FAW Elite Futsal League, which is split into a North and South divisions. The winners of both divisions play each other in a final.

Created in 2010, the league was contested held every year until the 2019/20 season, which was curtailed due to lockdown. The winner was eventually decided on a points-per game basis with Swansea University being crowned champions.

The following season was compressed into a three-day period in June 2021 and involved only four teams each from the North and South Divisions after a host of teams pulled out.

Newport United in action

“A lot of clubs had to wait until the September for any information on whether the league was going to start or not,” said Mr Carter.

“With no date or communication, many of us decided to play in England instead.

“KS Hussars, Wrexham Glyndwr, Border Futsal, The New Saints, Newport United, Futsal Caerdydd Dreigiau, Inter Cardiff, Baglan, and Merthyr Town all pulled out.”

The 2020/21 season was eventually won by Cefn Druids, who beat FTSL Futsal Club 5-1 to claim their first league title.

Last year’s competition saw even fewer teams taking part, with only Swansea University, Merthyr Town Futsal and eventual winners Futsal Club Cardiff taking part in the south division.

No news about this year’s edition has been released at the time of writing, causing confusion amongst those involved in the sport in Wales.

“There is basically no league,” said Mr Carter.

“Apparently in the north there are four teams playing amongst themselves but because no-one is reporting on these games it’s hard to really know where to find the tables and statistics for this. To be honest I don’t think even the FAW knows.

“Supposedly at the beginning of the season the FAW announced they were looking for teams for futsal league in the north and south, but whoever was doing it, I’ve never heard of it.”

Mr Ruscoe added: “Unfortunately for ourselves we have had to pull out due to the high costs, but we are led to believe there is only a northern league with four teams.

“In previous years the FAW would pay for the venue and the referee but last season, in a meeting which we were not invited to, they informed the clubs that they would only pay for the referees.

“It’s not right as we are sure that UEFA provide funding to the national bodies to help them run futsal in their respects countries.”

Youth is the future

Mr Ruscoe’s club FC United of Wrexham recently made headlines when Wrexham FC co-owner Ryan Reynolds donated £1,600 to their online fundraiser for a new kit for their Under-12s futsal team.  

The club runs three youth futsal sides across both genders ranging from under 7s up to under 15s. But due to a lack of available local leagues, they are often forced to travel across the border.

“Unfortunately youth Welsh futsal is non-existent, so we often have to arrange friendlies and travel into England,” said Mr Ruscoe.

“There is the FAW Academy Cup but that only allows Cymru Premier academy sides to join, which means that futsal clubs like us are left with nothing at all.”

What about the national team?

Wales national football team was created in 2011 and played its first game against Andorra a year later, losing 2-1.

The side, currently ranked 102 in the world, has never qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup or the UEFA Futsal Championship.

Unfortunately, the same lack of enthusiasm expressed towards the domestic game appears to have also affected the national team who haven’t played a competitive game since Germany in a double-header fixture in September 2021.

Wales vs Northern Ireland in 2020

What next?

The lack of communication between clubs and the FAW has prompted those involved at grassroots level to take matters into their own hands.

“Currently, futsal in Wales is in a dying state but I want to help (the FAW) fix it,” said Mr Carter.

Alongside his own club Newport United, he has managed to get together clubs from across South Wales who are all willing to help restart the national league ahead of the 2023/24 season.

“It took me a few days, a few posts on social media and we already have seven teams only from the South who want to play next season.”

“We can provide the foundations, but the FAW must provide the organisation.”

The clubs include Coed Eva Athletic, Cwmbran Town FC, Graig Villa Dino, Newport Saints, and Merthyr Town FC Futsal.

But for things to improve, changes need to be made at the top level according to Mr Carter.

“Clubs need to have a clear calendar to know when to prepare, assemble players and plan the season.”

“We need a futsal coordinator and a committee of representatives from several clubs to work together at FAW.

Those involved at youth level believe that any improvements made for the adult’s game should be mirrored at youth level.

“We need to fuel the fire from below but at the same time continue the national league,” said Mr Ruscoe.

“It’s time we had a national open entry youth futsal competition like they do in England.”