THE Welsh Premier’s income is expected to triple following the announcement of an official partner.
And next season’s champions will receive a huge cash boost after league chiefs almost doubled the prize money for winning the title.
At the league’s AGM in Llandudno on Saturday, it was announced that the Welsh Premier was about to secure an official partner in addition to current sponsor Principality Building Society. The identity of the official partner will be announced this week, and while no figures have yet been released it is expected to provide a massive boost in income.
It was also announced next season’s champions will win £15,000, up from £8,000 awarded to The New Saints last season and equalling the cash jackpot for winning the league’s Challenge Cup, which is to have a new format this year involving less group games.
Welsh Premier secretary John Deakin said: “We’ve almost doubled the prize money – the main prize for winning the league has always been the chance to play in Europe, but we didn’t want to be in the ridiculous situation of offering almost twice as much for the league cup as for winning the league title.”
Last year’s Challenge Cup drew criticism from some managers as clubs were often playing twice in a week in the autumn, with local derbies in the Challenge Cup contributing to injuries and suspensions and cutting down on available times for training sessions.
This year’s competition will involve six groups of three, so each club will therefore play just four games, home and away, in the group stages, before a two-legged knockout competition.
As expected, last season’s Cymru Alliance champions Llangefni were welcomed into the league for the first time, along with Neath Athletic, who won the corresponding Welsh League in South Wales. Cwmbran Town’s relegation was confirmed.
But there was no announcement of a play-off system for the forthcoming campaign.
Clubs voted to give the league board until October to look into the issue, which could see play-offs introduced for the league’s InterToto Cup place in the 2008-9 season.
Clubs also voted to accept the 12-week transfer window for Welsh Premier clubs being brought forward so that The New Saints, Rhyl, Llanelli and Carmarthen Town could sign players in time for the start of their continental campaigns. The window for Welsh Premier clubs will run from today until September 10, whereas other clubs in Wales will have a later transfer window running until October.
Deakin said the Welsh Premier was continuing to improve, adding: “I felt for two or three years we hit some sort of plateau, but we now seem to be on a more upward curve. We’re enjoying a great deal of success commercially and on the field, and the standard of administration from the clubs is at an all-time high.”
Addressing representatives from the Welsh Premier clubs, he added: “In 1992 I saw the then 20 ground in the Welsh Premier and they were in a pretty poor state.
“But it’s very much down to your own efforts that grounds have improved so much over recent years. There are new stands at Port Talbot Town, Carmarthen Town and Aberystwyth, and the new cover on one of the stands at Rhyl is a credit to that club.”
Porthmadog's Phil Jones was voted in as Welsh Premier board member for North Wales, Aberystwyth Town's Tony Bates for mid Wales and Port Talbot Town chairman Andrew Edwards for south Wales.
At the annual dinner, TNS boss Ken McKenna was given the manager of the season award, with the Golden Boot going to Llanelli's Rhys Griffiths for the second consecutive year.
For the new season the league will increase subsidies to clubs for match officials from £40 to £65 per game, effectively paying the referee’s fee in full.
Clubs will continue to pay for the referee’s assistants, while the league will pay for fourth officials for games not played on a Saturday.