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In the shadow of the Premier League

Article about CPD Porthmadog in German kindly translated by Idar Haaland. The German version can be seen at :

"Do not call it a stadium", warned my companion, "call it ground, just ground". When I arrive at the place, I know why. In front of the lovely panorama of the Snowdonia mountains, is a half-hearted (I am not quite sure about that one) beautiful green piece of grass, with a fence around it. Behind the old 250-seater stand, some cows is walking around.

An ordinary day in the Welsh Football League.

115 years after the Welsh FA were founded, Wales have, with the temptation of European Cup, overcome the differences between northern and southern clubs, and formed a national League in 1992. Since then the small-scale village football of Wales has changed.

(Then comes a sentence which I do not quite understand, but a Mel ap ior Thomas from Wales Soccer File says something about Barry Town taking the lead as far as the commercial side is concerned, and hoping that the other clubs will follow soon). "Surely, no club will win the European Cup in the next 20 years, but as the League is more settled, we will get stronger in the European competitions". At the moment, though, the situation in Europe is quite sad, with the Welsh sides struggling against the likes of Akranes and Skonto Riga in the Qualification Rounds. The difference between matches in Europe and the ordinary matches in the League are huge. There is therefore no Bundesliga-atmosphere at the North Welsh derby match between Club Peldroed Porthmadog and Bangor City. We were able to park our car near the entrance of the ground. There were no separation of fans, no police and only two places to pay the entrance fee.

Porthmadog is in the winter a small, sleepy place with around 4000 inhabitants. The stones for the KÝlner Dom (The Cathedral of Cologne) were gathered in this area. In this area many people still speak the Welsh language. The sign on the entrance says: "Croeso", which means "Welcome". Mel ap ior changes between speaking Welsh and English all the time to the people we meet.

The players of Bangor City seems much more professional than the others. The team from the North Coast played in Europe this summer, against Lodz of Poland. The Bangor City team consists of many players from the Liverpool/Everton area.

The economical situation of Porthmadog is precarious. "If 1000 people come to this match, then it would be great" says the man responsible for the economics, a man called Roberts. He has to write down "300 pounds lost" each week in his books. "Two years ago, we had 3000 at the match against Bangor City. We never have so many here these days.

When the players enter the field, the stadium - sorry- ground "Y Traeth" (The Beach) is scarcely full - 481 spectators. Roberts can only write down 1200 Pounds in his books. Damn sad. "it is much due to the Welsh weather", he says, "You look at the clouds, and then decide to stay home and watch the English Premier League matches on television instead". I could understand the people who stayed home in the second half when a cold wind and rain swept the ground. Despite good clothes, I am freezing, and I yet again ask myself what is so special with football. One cup of tea at 35 pence helped a little, and so did the good football.

Despite the wind, relegation candidates Porthmadog plays with joy, and wins fully deserved by four goals to two. That helps to keep us away from the relegation zone, says manager Colin Hawkins, but adds with sadness, "but the economical situation remains precarious".

Porthmadog is not the only club with economic problems. "only Barry, Fflint, Bangor and Conwy can (then comes a word which I do not understand, "kader"), because they have sponsors available. The League of Wales gets hardly any media attention. Despite the Welsh FA being the third oldest in the World, the media is heavily involved in Rugby. When there are focussed on football, it is the three sides who play in the English League, Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham, which is in focus. From the League of Wales all you get is usually the results and a league table. It is hard to get any sponsors with that kind of media attention. "And of course we are in the shadows of the Premier League", says Mel ap Ior Thomas. "Even in Porthmadog, a lot of kids run around in Manchester United and Liverpool shirts, and show no interest in their local club" The standard of football have improved since the start of the League, and the grounds are improving all the time. There are now stands and floodlights almost everywhere. But it is important to solve the problems still within the Welsh football. When Wales did not have a National League, the most ambitious clubs in Wales chose to play in England. After the introduction of the League of Wales, some of these chose to return, whilst others remained in England. The UEFA threatened with a ban in the European competitions, but not even in 1997 does all the Welsh clubs, with the exception of the professional clubs, play in Wales. Newport and Colwyn Bay wanted to play in England for any price. Therefore Newport had to play in the English town of Gloucester, and took the nickname "the Exiles".

"But we are hopeful", says Mel ap Ior Thomas. as he enters his car, and disappears in the Snowdonian mountains. A place which the National Coach Bobby Gould have not visited. "I have not yet seen a League of Wales match", he admits, as all his players plays in the English Premier League or First Division. There are still a lot do do in the land of Ryan Giggs and Ian Rush.



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