Welsh clubs are stranded at the edge of European football

Lack of funds and low crowds mean the national team’s success has not been replicated at league level

LOW attendances and a lack of funding are being cited by fans as the main reason for Welsh clubs’ lack of success in Europe.

The Welsh national team has seen an incredible rise in the past decade, qualifying for two European Championships and a World Cup.

As a result, The FAW has received vast amounts of prize money. UEFA figures have EURO 2020 prize money for Wales at around £10 million. They received £7.5 million just for qualifying for the World Cup.

It is yet to be seen how this money will be invested but fans are calling for it to be given to clubs.

“The FAW need to look at where they give their money. If clubs here can have decent academies players won’t be poached by Cardiff, Swansea or Newport and the standard can improve,” said Harry Ross, a Welsh football fan who travels to support his friend who is a linesman.

In January, 18-year-old Tom Tweedy signed for Burnley from Penybont, representing the latest player to move from the Cymru Leagues into the professional game in England.

Other players who started in Wales before moving to England include Ben Cabango, Mark Delaney, Glyn Garner, Owain Tudur Jones and Steve Evans.

Five teams in Wales play in the English Football system and all attract higher attendances than the Cymru Premier average of 308 this season. This is similar to the Southern League in England – the eighth tier of football.

According to Transfermarkt.com, only one Welsh team averages attendances over 400 — Caernarfon Town with 478.

Low attendances have a knock-on effect for finances.

“I’ve heard there might be discussions of moving the season to summer. This might help attendances improve so there are no clashes with Cardiff City or the other teams and make us more competitive in Europe,” said Mr Ross.

Despite the figure being low, attendances in the Cymru Premier have steadily increased in the past decade to record levels.

Increased funding and getting more people through the gate would help clubs compete and end Welsh football’s dogged fortunes in Europe.

UEFA rank the Cymru Premier 50 out of 55 top-flight leagues in Europe, below countries like Luxembourg, Northern Ireland and Estonia. This ranking determines how many, and how late, a country’s teams enter European competition. Teams winning games in Europe get more ranking points.

Three teams from Wales qualify for Europe each season, the champions go into the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round. The other two enter the UEFA Conference League qualifying rounds.

This season, The New Saints lost both their fixtures in Europe. Bala Town also were knocked straight out of the Conference League. Newtown AFC won their first qualifying round fixture against HB Torshavn of The Faroe Islands before bowing out to Slovakian side Spartak Trnava.

This has happened frequently in the 21st century. Teams enter Europe and then promptly exit before making their mark.

No team from Wales has qualified for the group stage of a UEFA tournament, the closest being The New Saints reaching the Europa League final qualifying round in 2010/11. In recent times, clubs from Kosovo, Liechtenstein and Gibraltar have made a group stage.