Caerau (Ely) FC's ground. Photo: Sam Feierabend

Meet Caerau (Ely) FC: the team aiming for Cymru Premier League football

The club is at the heart of the community and has big ambitions to bring top-flight Welsh football to Cardiff

AT the far west of Cardiff lies a community football club with lofty ambitions to bring Welsh football’s top-flight to the city.

Caerau (Ely) FC currently play in the Ardal Southern League (South West), the third level of Welsh football. Last season, they were fighting relegation but an overhaul of the club has changed their fortunes.

“I think it is really important that we give local players the chance to play regular, first-team football at a decent standard,” said Dean Wheeler, manager of the club.

Wheeler has a long history in Welsh football, having played for teams like Taffs Well and Pontypridd Town. He previously managed Pontyclun.

Under new head of operations Mathew Davies, the club has relocated training to the Ocean Park Arena, a state-of-the-art training facility on Ocean Way.

This has given players access to gyms, pitches, and coaches that other teams at their level do not have in a space they share with Cardiff and Vale SFA.

Caerau (Ely) have set up a youth team system to build a pathway to men’s football. These connections have helped to bring players back to Ely to play for the club. Many of them have dropped from a higher division to cut travel time to train.

Wheeler is supported by James McCarthy, who coaches at Cardiff University as well.

“The facilities they have here are part of the attraction to coach here. It’s great because I have been able to bring some of my uni boys down to train and play with a first team,” said McCarthy.

Success has been seen on the pitch. Caerau are currently third in the league and in the hunt for promotion to the second tier – a level they have been at before.

Caerau’s ground is a characteristic lower-league football ground. Photo: Sam Feierabend.

Their ground is littered with hallmarks of lower-league football, and packed with character. Their main stand is built with concrete blocks with old advertisements strewn across the top.

Money has been spent on developing the team’s dressing room, and a 3G training pitch is being built on adjacent land so the team can also train in the heart of the community.

Football is nothing without fans, and Caerau are hoping to boost their profile via social media to grow their attendances.

“At the start of the season, we were getting about 20 to 30 in but now we’ve started to see 60 to 70 on a regular basis which really makes a difference,” said Wheeler.

According to FAW licensing, to be promoted to tier two, a team must have at least 250 covered seats and a ground that can hold a minimum of 750 supporters. Caerau’s ground meets this.

The club aim to install floodlights to host Friday night games. This would avoid clashes with other sporting fixtures and boost attendance.

Their long-term aim of reaching the Cymru Premier would make them Cardiff’s only “community club” in the top-flight. Cardiff Met Uni FC play in it but are affiliated to the university, not a community.

  • Upcoming matches can be found via the club’s Twitter account: @CaerauElyFC.