The Football League announced last week that they will be rebranding to become the English Football League. Laura Jones asks where that leaves the Welsh clubs.
Sorry Cardiff City and Newport County, you’re going to have to become English. That’s how it works if you play in the English Football League, right?
In one consultation the Football League has diversified into an American-style marketing rebranding exercise and, at the same time, alienated the Welsh clubs playing in it. Well done, that’s quite an achievement.
From 2016/17 season, the Football League will be renamed the English Football League or the EFL for short. This has angered fans of the Welsh clubs who believe it’s “insulting” to be classed at English.
The Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust has hit out at the rebrand saying it’s “factually incorrect and completely unnecessary” because Championship club Cardiff City and League Two side Newport County participate in the leagues.
But how insulted are the Welsh clubs really?
Technically the Football League has always been an English league and this raises the age-old debate as to whether Welsh clubs should be participating in them instead of the Welsh domestic leagues. Traditionally, though, Welsh teams have played regionally in the English league system. It wasn’t until 1992 when the English and Welsh Premier Leagues were formed, that a few Welsh clubs nailed their colours to the English mast. Six teams in all refused to join the Welsh Premier League, opting to stay in the English pyramid.
Only a few seasons ago the Football Association of Wales (FAW) were seeking to clarify whether the six Welsh teams playing within the English pyramid could qualify to play in Europe if they participated in the Welsh Cup. The Welsh clubs had been barred from entering the Welsh Cup since 1995 when Uefa insisted that only clubs playing in Wales in the domestic leagues could participate.
Had Uefa agreed to this U-turn then Swansea City, Cardiff City, Newport County, Wrexham, Colwyn Bay and Merthyr Tydfil would have been able to play in the Welsh Cup whilst still playing domestically in the English leagues.
The idea was rejected by Uefa as they stipulated that if these clubs were to participate in the Welsh Cup then they would have to withdraw from the FA Cup and the League Cup competitions.
The Swans did qualify to play in Europe as an English representative when they won the League Cup in 2013. The question you have to ask is, are these six Welsh clubs having their cake and eating it?
They straddle the line of confusion and the clubs cherry-picked which was the most advantageous and lucrative to them. Swansea City fans don’t seem to have an issue with playing in the ‘English’ Premier League but then, their share of the £5.3billion TV rights deal must comfort any shaming of national pride.
The EFL rebrand isn’t really for existing fans, anyway. The new “modern identity” is to attract global viewers and corporate sponsors. Whilst it may jar the Welsh fans that they have been officially labelled as playing in an English league, it had always been the case and — let’s emphasise this — it was a choice of the clubs back in 1992 to play the English way not the Welsh way.
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