BANGOR City, The New Saints and Llanelli have been slammed for failing to showcase the Welsh Premier during their European campaigns this summer.
The blast has come from league secretary John Deakin, who described the performances of all three teams in crashing out of European competition at the first hurdle as “abysmal”.
However, while he criticised Bangor for their Uefa Cup thrashing at the hands of Danish side Midtjylland, Deakin praised the Citizens for attracting the biggest crowd of last weekend’s opening league programme, as nearly 1,000 fans watched Neville Powell’s side lose 2-0 to champions Llanelli at Farrar Road.
He also hailed big-spenders Rhyl and new boys Prestatyn, who attracted the second and third-biggest gates of the weekend, saying their crowds of 586 and 480 respectively showed things were looking up for the league.
But Deakin insisted the standard of football in the Welsh Premier was still “not good enough” to compete with its European neighbours, and called on the Welsh Assembly government to provide cash for its national league.
“One thing I’m not happy about is the abysmal performance of our clubs in European competition this summer,” he said. “It’s obvious we’re not good enough at the moment, but how you overcome that I don’t know.”
Deakin said he was not blaming Rhyl, who lost to Irish side Bohemians in the InterToto Cup back in June, but said he had expected more of Llanelli in the Champions League, and Bangor and TNS in the Uefa Cup.
“I wouldn’t point the finger at Rhyl for one minute,” he said. “They had problems with registering players because of the transfer window – they couldn’t sign any players before their tie. But the other three, I expected them to do a bit better.
“We need more investment,” he added. “I’m always reading about how the league in Ireland gets a deal more investment than our league. They’re able to attract better players so they get more spectators and it’s all self-generating.
“In the Republic of Ireland they get money from the government – there’s a fair bit of government money goes into the game, and into football in Northern Ireland as well, I believe.
“Once again, Wales is the poor relation as far as investment goes, and I can’t see it getting much better in the short-term with the current financial situation. If people can’t pay their mortgages they won’t be overly worried about the lack of money going into the Welsh Premier League!”
Deakin was buoyed by attendances last weekend – and by a new television deal with S4C which will see more live matches broadcast than ever before, starting a week tomorrow when Rhyl take on Llanelli in a clash of the Welsh Premier titans.
And he said: “There were some reasonable attendances last weekend – Prestatyn’s attendance was getting on for 500, there were almost 1,000 at Bangor and over 500 at Rhyl. We’ve got to build on that and try and help the clubs whose attendances are not that great.
“The new deal with S4C will give us a much better profile, particularly given the fact that from September people will be able to access English-language commentary via the red button.”
Around 100 hours of Welsh Premier action will be broadcast on Sgorio and Sgorio Cymru this season, for the first time including English-language commentary.