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(CARL WOODWARD - Western Mail - 5/5/98)

PORTHMADOG are challenging the legality of a decision to relegate four clubs from the League of Wales.

They want an arbitration panel to decide whether the Football Association of Wales's rule-change can be implemented.

If their application for arbitration is rejected they will go to court, backed by other relegated clubs.

The Gwynedd club, which finished fourth from bottom above Flint Town, Welshpool and Cemaes Bay, insists it should not go down.

"League of Wales clubs voted overwhelmingly against four clubs being relegated this season, but some time later the FAW announced that four would go down," said Porthmadog manager Colin Hawkins.

"We contend the decision has been taken illegally. The FAW did not use it's bloc vote at the annual meeting last year as required by the company's articles of association.

"Even if it had done, the minutes would have to be accepted at this year's annual meeting.

"This is not the only reason why the lawyers we have consulted say we cannot be relegated. There are a number of rulebook inconsistencies.

"The League of Wales changed the competition rules to relegate four clubs but not the rules of the company articles of association, which still state that two clubs will go down.

"The League of Wales says it will accept the runners-up from the Welsh League Division One. However, the Welsh League's own rules state that only its champion club can be promoted. I believe the same applies in the Cymru Alliance.

"And, most important of all, the FAW handbook, which is the Bible of Welsh football, states that only the champion club from the Welsh League and the Cymru Alliance shall be promoted to the League of Wales.

"This therefore prevents Afan Lido being promoted from the Welsh League as runners-up to Ton Pentre, who don't want to go up for financial reasons.

"So if Ton Pentre and the Cymru Alliance champions, to be decided this week, aren't in a position to go up, only two League of Wales clubs would need to be relegated.

"A barrister who has examined all the rulebooks has advised that the matter be settled by the FAW arbitration procedure.

"This allows differences to be set settled by a tribunal panel made up of one nominee from each party and a barrister or solicitor who will have the final say if no agreement can be reached.

"We are still awaiting the FAW reply to our application for arbitration. If it is turned down we will be reluctantly forced to go to court.

"The legal battle would cost around £12,000, but we have the backing of other clubs and are advised we have a strong case.

"A marvelous job was done in setting up the League of Wales, but the pyramid system is not working properly. The mess must be sorted out once and for all for the sake of Welsh football."

League of Wales secretary John Deakin said, "I am aware that Porthmadog have circulated clubs about going to arbitration. Their application for arbitration is a mailer for the Football Association of Wales.

"However, certain procedures have to be followed before a case can be taken to arbitration.

"Basically it has to follow an appeal against a decision, but there has been no appeal against the decision that was taken last summer.

"Clubs have gone through the season knowing that four would be relegated, with nothing said until we were about a month from the end of the season.

"As a directly affiliated league, we have to comply with the FAW's rulechange, and I have to say that personally I agree with the decision to relegate four. I am in favour of a smaller League of Wales."

Meanwhile, Haverfordwest's great escape from relegation has had a major knock-on effect.

Had they gone down, four clubs in each of the Welsh League's three divisions would have been relegated. Now only three clubs will go down from each section, creating an 18- club First Division and two lower divisions with 16 sides each.



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