Welsh Premier League
|Other club(s) from||England|
|Number of teams||12|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||Cymru Alliance
Welsh Football League First Division
|Domestic cup(s)||Welsh Cup
Welsh League Cup
|International cup(s)||UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa League
|Current champions||The New Saints
|Most championships||The New Saints
The Welsh Premier League (Welsh: Uwch Gynghrair Cymru) is the national football league for Wales. It has both professional and semi-professional status clubs and is at the top of the Welsh football league system. Prior to 2002, the league was known as the League of Wales, but changed its name as part of a sponsorship deal. Currently, the full sponsored name of the league is the Dafabet Welsh Premier League.
The Welsh Premier League is ranked by the UEFA coefficient in 48th place out of 53 current members.
A troubled start
The league was formed in October 1991 by Alun Evans, Secretary General of the Football Association of Wales (FAW), as he believed that the Welsh international football team was under threat from FIFA. The FAW, along with the other three home nations' associations (The Football Association, Irish Football Association and Scottish Football Association), had a permanent seat on the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and it was thought that many FIFA members were resentful of this and pressing for the four unions to unite into one combined side for the whole of the United Kingdom.
The new league was formed for the 1992–93 season, and officially launched on 15 August 1992. At the time, despite the FAW being a FIFA member it had not previously organised a national league. Traditionally, the strongest teams in Wales had always played in the English leagues. Aberdare Athletic, Cardiff City, Merthyr Town, Newport County, Swansea City and Wrexham have all been members of the Football League.
Because of poor north-south transport links within Wales, it has always been easier for Welsh clubs to travel east-west so Welsh clubs tended to look east to England for competitors and many of the top semi-professional sides in Wales played in the English football league system; Bangor City were founder members of the Football Conference (then the Alliance Premier League) in 1979 and reached the FA Trophy final in 1984, before transferring to the new League of Wales in 1992.
The formation of the League of Wales saw the start of a bitter dispute between the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and those non-league clubs who wanted to remain part of the English football league. The 'Irate Eight', as they were dubbed, consisted of Bangor City, Barry Town, Caernarfon Town, Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, Newtown and Rhyl. At the time, Cardiff City, Swansea City and Wrexham were playing in The Football League, and the FAW decided to allow those teams to continue to play in the English system.
Prior to the inaugural season, Bangor City, Newtown and Rhyl reluctantly agreed to play in the League of Wales. However, as Rhyl's application to join the league was late, they were placed in the second level of the pyramid system. Because of FAW sanctions, the remaining five clubs were forced to play their home matches in England. Following a season in exile at Worcester City, five became four, as Barry Town joined the League of Wales.
A court ruling in 1995 allowed the remaining four clubs to return to Wales to play their home matches while still remaining within the English system; despite this victory, Caernarfon Town decided to join the League of Wales. However, Newport County, Colwyn Bay and Merthyr Town remain in the English league pyramid system. Conversely, in 1996 now-defunct English team Oswestry Town were accepted by the League of Wales and currently The New Saints are based in Oswestry. In 2010, another English club, Chester City, whose stadium sits on the England/Wales border, applied to join the Welsh Premier League before being wound up.
For the first four seasons of the league's existence, its results had not been featured on the Press Association's vidiprinter service and consequently had not appeared on Final Score. The PA started featuring the league's results at the start of the 1996–97 season, which was also when the PA began providing the results for the Northern Irish league.
One of the major problems facing the league is its failure to attract teams from the major population centres of Wales, which hampers the chances of high attendances at matches. This is because the four most populous areas of Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham have teams that are long established within the English football league system. The Welsh Premier League is therefore made up of clubs from smaller towns and even villages. One option to extend participation may be for the Welsh clubs playing in the English Football League to field reserve or representative teams in the Welsh Premier League; however this would also affect European qualification as there would be a representation conflict between the existing WPL clubs and the major Welsh clubs which qualify through the English league system (see below).
Promotion and relegation
Clubs are promoted to the Welsh Premier League from the two regional feeder leagues; the Cymru Alliance in the north and the Welsh Football League Division One in the south. Clubs who finish as champions of the feeder leagues, or as runners-up if the champions decide not to seek promotion, are promoted subject to an application for membership being received and accepted and the stadium and infrastructure safety criteria of the Welsh Premier League being met.
No teams were promoted to the Welsh Premier League following the 2005–06 season. However, Cardiff Grange Quins, who finished bottom of the Welsh Premier League resigned leaving the league to operate with an odd number of clubs for 2006–07.
Eighteen clubs competed in the Welsh Premier League for the 2007–08 season as both Neath Athletic (Welsh Football League Division One) and Llangefni Town (Cymru Alliance) were promoted whilst Cwmbran Town were relegated to Welsh Football League Division One.
For 2008–09, Prestatyn Town played in the Welsh Premier League for the first time after promotion from the Cymru Alliance, whilst Llangefni Town were relegated to the Cymru Alliance after only one season.
At the end of the 2009–10 season, due to league restructuring Connah's Quay, Porthmadog, Welshpool Town, Caersws and Cefn Druids were relegated to the Cymru Alliance league. Rhyl were also relegated to the Cymru Alliance, despite finishing 6th in the Welsh Premier League, as they failed to meet the financial criteria required to gain the Welsh Premier League domestic licence. No teams were promoted to the Welsh Premier League from the feeder leagues.
League restructure, 2010–11 season
The 18 Welsh Premier League clubs met on April 13, 2008 and voted to support a restructuring proposal put forward by Welsh Premier League secretary John Deakin which would replace the single Welsh Premier League with a First and Second Division with 10 teams in each Division for the 2010–11 season. A further proposal was accepted that the Football Association of Wales should take full control of the Welsh Premier League and the existing Company, 'Football League of Wales Limited' should be dissolved. These proposals were forwarded to the Football Association of Wales for their consideration.
In June 2009 the clubs voted to accept an alternative proposal to reduce the premier League from 18 clubs to 12 for the 2010–11 season onwards.
The champions of the Welsh Premier League qualify, along with the champions of every European domestic league, for the UEFA Champions League. The second placed team qualifies for the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League. The teams in places 3 to 7 then play off for the second Europa spot. A place in the second round of the Europa League is also awarded to the winners of the Welsh Cup. If the winners of the Welsh Cup have already qualified for Europe via their league placing (e.g., finishing first and winning the Cup) the eighth placed team comes in to the playoff.
Results in Europe have been mixed - some notable successes, such as Barry Town's run to the first round proper of the UEFA Cup, drawing 3–3 with Aberdeen at Jenner Park, Bangor City's win over FC Sartid of Yugoslavia and Barry's 3–1 victory over FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League (albeit losing 3-9 on aggregate), stand alongside some heavy defeats, such as The New Saints' 12–1 aggregate defeat to Amica Wronki of Poland.
In recent times results in Europe have generally improved. Whereas in the past, Welsh sides had been on the wrong end of some heavy scorelines, all Welsh sides now enter Europe with the realistic aim of at least winning their first round tie. In the last few years in particular European results have been more competitive, with Prestatyn, Rhyl, Carmarthen Town, Bangor City, The New Saints and Llanelli all beating clubs from other countries over two legs.
There is no doubt that the advent of the League has brought increased media coverage for its member clubs. Although there is sometimes complaint about the lack of it at times, the league does enjoy coverage by the Welsh national (notably the Western Mail and Daily Post) and local press.
Since the start of the 2007/08 season goals and results from the league have appeared on the Press Association vidiprinter service. Prior to this only the full-time score had been displayed although the half time score had also been shown from around 2000. Both Final Score and Sports Report now include the Welsh Premier League results as part of their classified football results sequence and for a while Soccer Saturday also included the WPL results but has not done so in recent seasons.
On television, brief highlights from one of the day's games were featured on BBC Wales' sports results programme Wales on Saturday whilst the BBC also provided a 30-minute highlights programme for Welsh-language broadcaster, S4C, entitled "Y Clwb Pêl-droed". When the corporation lost the international broadcast rights to BSkyB at the end of the 2003/4 season, S4C won the secondary rights package which included highlights of the national team and all domestic rights. Sgorio took over the "Clwb Pêl-droed" slot previously produced by the BBC and in 2010/11 the half hour highlights programme was dropped in favour of one live game per week. S4C broadcasts in Wales and throughout the rest of the UK via digital satellite with an interactive option for English-language commentary available via digital satellite.
Welsh Clubs' European games are sometimes broadcast live also, again, usually on S4C since they won the domestic rights but the BBC have broadcast some matches whilst TNS's Champions League tie against Liverpool was live on ITV2.
Commentary of matches involving Bangor City, both home and away, is also available by visiting the fans website, www.bangorcitizens.com. The commentary team won an award with the North Wales-based Daily Post newspaper in 2010. The commentary is provided by Ian Gill, Garry Sweeney and Jonathan Ervine.
A total of 38 clubs have played in the league from its inception in 1992 and the end of the 2009–10 season. Of the 20 clubs that played in the inaugural season of the League of Wales, ten have since been relegated yet to return, with one, Ebbw Vale, folding in 1998. For a list of all clubs past and present see List of Welsh Premier League clubs. For a list of winners and runners-up of the Welsh Premier League since its inception, and top scorers for each season, see List of Welsh football champions.
Only three clubs have played in every season League of Wales/Welsh Premier League since its inception. These three clubs are Aberystwyth Town, Bangor City and Newtown.
Members for 2014–15
The following 12 clubs will compete in the Welsh Premier League during the 2014–15 season.
|First season in
|Number of seasons
in top division
|Number of seasons
in the Premier League
|First season of
current spell in
|Last top division title|
|Aberystwyth Town||Park Avenue||7th||1992–93||22||22||1992–93||0||–|
|Airbus UK Broughton||The Airfield||2nd||2004–05||9||9||2004–05||0||–|
|Bala Town||Maes Tegid||8th||2009–10||5||5||2009–10||0||–|
|Carmarthen Town||Richmond Park||3rd||1997–98||17||17||1997–98||0|
|Cefn Druids||The Rock||-||1992–93||11||-||2014-15||0||–|
|Gap Connah's Quay||Deeside Stadium||10th||1992–93||20||2||2012-13||0||–|
|Port Talbot Town||Victoria Road||9th||2000–01||14||14||2000–01||0||–|
|Prestatyn Town||Bastion Road||11th||2008–09||6||6||2008–09||0||–|
|The New Saints||Park Hall*||1st||1993–94||21||21||1993–94||8||2013–14|
Performances by club
|1||Total Network Solutions/The New Saints||9||5||2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015|
|2||Barry Town||7||1||1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003|
|3||Bangor City||3||1||1994, 1995, 2011|
|8||Airbus UK Broughton||0||2||-|
Colin Reynolds holds the record for the number of appearances in the league with 516 games played.
Below is a list of the League's sponsors and what they chose to name the competition:
- 1992: Konica Peter Llewellyn Limited of Swansea (Konica League of Wales)
- 1993–2001: No sponsor .
- 2002–04: JT Hughes Mitsubishi (JT Hughes Mitsubishi Welsh Premiership)
- 2004–06: Vauxhall Masterfit Retailers (Vauxhall Masterfit Retailers Welsh Premier League)
- 2006–11: Principality Building Society (Principality Building Society Welsh Premier Football League)
- 2011-2015: CorbettSports.com (Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League)
- 2015-: Dafabet (The Dafabet Welsh Premier League)
- Football in Wales
- Welsh football league system
- Welsh Cup
- Welsh League Cup
- FAW Premier Cup
- List of football clubs in Wales
- List of stadiums in Wales by capacity
- S4C: A season in brief: 1992/93. Accessed 6 March 2014
- "Clubs vote to Re-structure the League". Welsh Premier League. 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2008-04-13.
- "Clubs accept reduced Premier League". BBC News. 2009-06-13. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- Relegated clubs:Ebbw Vale welsh-premier.com Retrieved 16 June 2010 23:45
- "It's official - Tottenham have the worst defence in Premier League history". London: Daily Mail. 14 November 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
- Welsh Premier all-time leading goal scorers Welsh Premier Football
- Welsh Premier all-time appearances Welsh Premier Football