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To the casual eye, the 2012/13 season was a great one for Welsh clubs playing in the English football pyramid.

From the top division down to the fifth, Wales’s biggest clubs were enjoying a year like no other, as Cardiff City stormed to the nPower Championship title and neighbours Swansea City qualified for Europe via their Wembley Capital One Cup final win over Bradford City.

Swansea City: Capital One Cup Winners 2013

Swansea City: Capital One Cup Winners 2013

Cardiff City: Championship Winners 2013

Cardiff City: Championship Winners 2013

Our north Walian friends from Wrexham also got in on the act, as they too made a trip to England’s national stadium and returned across the border with the FA Trophy in hand.

Wrexham: FA Trophy Winners 2013

Wrexham: FA Trophy Winners 2013

Another trip to Wembley would close their season, but on that occasion it would be another Welsh club who would leave with silverware: Newport County secured their Football League place through the Conference Play-Offs and also their entry into the Capital One Cup for the coming season, and as far as away draws go, a visit to Brighton & Hove Albion is arguably the most difficult trip that could have been pulled out of the pot.

Newport County AFC: Conference Play-Off Winners 2013

Newport County AFC: Conference Play-Off Winners 2013

But closer to home, the situation is not so rosy. Prior to last season, Welsh Premier League side Neath FC were forced into liquidation following numerous years of consistent mismanagement, with money being spent in places that the Eagles simply could not afford. The most high-profile was the signing of Swansea City legend Lee Trundle, but ‘magic daps’ was just one of many players that the club were paying over the odds to retain. Neath had been on the ascent since their 2005 formation, qualifying for Europe in 2010 having moved in to groundshare at the Gnoll with Neath RFC., one of Welsh rugby’s most successful club sides. Wound up at the High Court in May 2012, their demise was a blow to the ever-improving Welsh League.

However, fast-forward just over twelve months and we find two more Welsh clubs in worrying situations. Llanelli AFC. were wound up this past April for a £21,000 tax debt, but former Reds boss Bob Jeffrey has resurrected the club as AFC Llanelli, while Barry Town were withdrawn from the Welsh Football League by owner Stuart Lovering, against the wishes of the Jenner Park side’s Supporters’ Club. They too have been reformed, now going under the name Barry Town United to reflect the efforts of their supporters.

As recently as 2008, Llanelli were crowned Welsh Premier League Champions, and in the past five seasons the Stebonheath Park club have appeared four times in the Europa League and once in the Champions League qualifying stages. Barry, who can count the likes of Alan Curtis (current Swansea City first-team coach) and the late Robbie James (over 400 appearances for Swansea and a further fifty for Cardiff City) among their former players, have won the Welsh Premier League a record seven times since its inception in 1992.

But as it stands, next season both clubs could be playing the equivalent of park football in the Welsh tenth tier. A recommendation that both clubs be reinstated into the league was last week overruled by the FAW, leaving the futures of each in heavy doubt. Both clubs have been instructed to join their respective area associations, and that ruling has prompted local MP Alun Cairns to issue a statement about the “kick in the teeth”. Cairns also promised to speak to FAW Chief Executive Jonathan Ford in a bid to have the decision reversed.

With further high-profile names in Welsh football including Andy Legg giving their voice to a widespread criticism of the FAW’s decision, the saga looks likely to continue well into the summer. For the continuing story, follow @StandUpForBarry, @LlanelliAFC and @BarryTownUnited on Twitter.

Post written by Oliver Roderick
Twitter: @olrodlegacy

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