Football friendlies given the go ahead for the time being

No smoking policy at junior football games in Wales

“It was time to do something.”

From Monday, 9th November ‘non elite’ football clubs which includes Pembrokeshire League clubs will be permitted to play friendlies in Wales.

A host of fixtures for next weekend have already been pencilled in up and down the country, and the excitement of players desperate to take to a field for the first time since March has been evident.

Furthermore, in their guidance released yesterday, Sport Wales confirmed that for outdoor sporting events, the ‘rule of 30’ won’t incorporate coaches or officials – a boost to those concerned about the logistics of not being able to name proper substitutes. Rumours have also surfaced that the JD Cymru North and South leagues are soon to join the Premier in being granted elite status.

In a theme sadly familiar with Welsh football throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, neither of those notions have been confirmed to clubs yet by the FAW. The long wait may be almost over for some, but there are also fears that the damage done between Covid-19 abruptly halting the 2019/20 campaign eight months ago and now, may prove irreparable. spoke to Mark Powell, a member of the Save Welsh Football Alliance, about the ‘massive frustration’ that clubs have had to endure. The Alliance, consisting of 10 male and female members, was formed just over a month ago in a bid to save the grassroots game in Wales from going under.

A petition, originally started by Mark Morgan (Cambrian and Clydach Vale BGC), to raise the number of people allowed in outdoor spaces from 30 to 40 has passed 5000 signatures, and will therefore be debated in the Senedd.

“We’ve had months of inaction and the frustration has grown,” said Powell, manager of South Wales Alliance Premier League champions Pencoed Athletic.

“We’ve been looking across the bridge and seeing football played all over England and in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland too.

“It was time to do something. A few vocal individuals have spoken up but despite the negative effects of not playing, no one was doing anything.”

Indeed, the lack of influential voices in Wales while football has stalled has been telling – a notion not lost on Powell and co.

“Where are all the ex-players and managers? Robbie Savage for example, he’s been speaking up for the English grassroots game but nothing on Wales where we have been stagnant.

“It makes you wonder how many of them are still on the FAW payroll.”

Confusing criteria

The impact of Covid-19 on Welsh society and beyond has been a devastating one. No sane person would argue that playing football takes precedence over lives being lost, businesses being ruined, or anyone being put at risk.

But in terms of emerging from the pandemic, it’s the disdain with which amateur football has been treated in comparison to other aspects of society that has caused understandable angst.

Meet ups in pubs and restaurants, queues outside garden centres, busy shopping centres – all scenes permitted with a view to getting our economy going and improving people’s state of mind.

Grassroots football at senior level mind, as Powell alluded to, has been deemed unsafe and remained stagnate.

There has been football in the form of the JD Cymru Premier, which has provided the league with some welcome focus and publicity. No one is disputing it’s a positive that tier one sides are playing, the question marks surround the fact that others haven’t been.

“They’ve been so over cautious with us,” said Powell.

“The protocols are hugely frustrating. Hundreds of clubs can do what they’re asking of in the Welsh Premier to keep things safe. We (Save Grassroots Football Alliance) are collecting data at the moment which we can’t wait to release as it’s very telling.

“We (Pencoed Athletic) were declared champions of our league last season on the points per game average but didn’t have the ground criteria to go up. It was the same with teams like Swansea University.

“But even at clubs like ours, we can still do temperature checks and meet all the safety regulations. It baffles me as to why only what they call the elite are playing.

“It’s been one rule for the Premier and a different rule for the masses. It was a disgraceful decision.”

Nicky Woodrow scores against the Nomads, the striker bagged seven goals for The Vikings

Future fears

The caution surrounding the grassroots game until now would have been more understandable for clubs had everything been on hold.

However, the FAW weren’t so cautious when it came to taking hundreds of pounds from each club for annual pre-season registration fees this summer. There’s been no football to play, but the charges have remained the same.

“They said it was for insurance purposes even though they had no intention of re-starting leagues in September,” said Powell.

“I still don’t think we’ll get a proper league season. The fees should be retained for next year, it’s daylight robbery.”

But the fears of the Save Welsh Football Alliance extend beyond financial insecurity. Way beyond in fact.

“Clubs may go to the wall because of this year.

“The appetite to return to training was good at first but players have just been waiting and waiting for the competitive season to start. Now some have started losing interest and drifting off. I can see it happening in my own set up and I’ve spoken to other managers whose numbers at sessions have virtually halved.

“There are so many benefits of football which we’ve all been denied these past eight months.”

Light at the end of the tunnel?

This is at least a week when at long last, all players and teams in Wales can at least look forward to on field action.

The fact the petition of the Alliance will be heard in the Senedd is a positive even if unsuccessful, as at least it will bring the concerns of amateur clubs to light on a national scale. In the meantime, we await FAW clarification that coaches and organisers are exempt from the rule of 30.

But whilst there is short term hope, concern remains over long term ramifications.

It has not been an easy year for anyone, let alone the FAW. But the lack of communication with clubs and media since March has been telling, and reinforced the notion amongst many that they care little for the grassroots game.

It’s a notion that, to their credit, the Save Welsh Football Alliance are doing their best to reverse.

And good luck to them.

For more on the Save Welsh Football Alliance, visit, or follow @savepeldroed on Twitter.

Plenty of football action this Saturday in Pembrokeshire