WELSH PREMIER FOOTBALL

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[Left]: Merthyr Tydfil were the only Welsh club allowed to remain in England by the FAW and went on to lift the Conference title in 1998/9 [www.themartyrs.com] and [right] Newport County officials and supporters celebrate the High Court victory.


WHEN news broke in October 1991 that the Football Association of Wales was to create a new League of Wales, it was not greeted with universal acclaim by the Principality's football clubs.
The FAW announced that it would withdraw a sanction for all the Welsh non-league clubs that were playing in the English pyramid.
Bangor City, Barry Town, Caernarfon Town, Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport AFC, Newtown and Rhyl argued the case for their right to play where they wished.
An appeal was heard by the FAW and all the clubs - with the exception of Merthyr Tydfil - were told that they must return to the Welsh system.
Bangor and Newtown joined the new set-up, but Rhyl were too late with their application and played season 1992/3 in the Cymru Alliance.
But several clubs defied the FAW which resulted in them being forced to play their games on English grounds.
Barry Town, who went on to win the Welsh Premier title seven times, shared the ground of Worcester FC for one season, before deciding to return to Wales. They spent the 1993/4 season in the Welsh Football League First Division but it was a memorable one - they won the championship, the League Cup, the Welsh Cup for the first time since 1955 and were promoted to the League of Wales.
Caernarfon and Colwyn Bay opted to remain in the Northern Premier League. The Canaries were forced to play their 'home' games more than 100 miles away at east Manchester club Curzon Ashton, while the Seagulls played at the Drill Field, the ground of Northwich Victoria.
This inevitably affected their support and for the following season they moved closer to the Welsh border and to Ellesmere Port.
Newport County have been known as the Exiles since they were forced to play their inaugural season in the Hellenic League at Moreton in Marsh in Gloucestershire.
Despite returning to their Somerton Park home for two seasons, more football politics consigned them to a further two seasons of exile at Gloucester and the club was forced to resort to legal action to protect themselves from being forced out of the English football pyramid.
Matters were finally resolved by the High Court in April 1995 when the three remaining clubs in exile - Newport, Caernarfon and Colwyn - won their case against the Welsh FA and were able to return to play in Wales.
But, following a series of mediocre performances over several seasons in the Northern Premier League's First Division, Caernarfon decided to return to Welsh soccer and joined the League of Wales four months later.
Newport County remain in the English system and, after several years in the lower tiers of the pyramid, re-ignited their dream of returning to the Football League by winning promotion to the Conference in 2010.
Colwyn Bay play in the Unibond League's First Division.
Merthyr also remain in England but, after financial difficulties, toil down the pyramid in the Western League, playing their games at the home of Welsh League Taffs Well.
Uefa may yet take a hand in the destiny of the exiled clubs and, indeed, the anomalous situation which sees Cardiff City, Swansea City and Wrexham also playing over the border.

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25 April 2017

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