From strict COVID protocols to playing fixtures behind closed doors, the season is likely to remembered for many things except the football as Connah's Quay Nomads attempt to defend their league title.
“We've worked hard with the Welsh Government to secure that the Cymru Premier clubs are granted elite status that allowed us to return behind closed doors,” explained JD Cymru Premier Secretary Gwyn Derfel at the start of the new season. “There are demands on the clubs to secure everyone's health and safety. We have a responsibility, and if we want football to come back fully and ultimately with supporters then we have to be responsible. We're in very difficult times and the league has already started five weeks late. We're in weekly discussions with the Welsh Government trying to get our points across and we've tried to get the FAW and member clubs pulling in the same direction. We acknowledge that these are very difficult times but we are confident that we will have a meaningful season this year.”
Of course, the unusual situation brings a host of challenges for our clubs, as Chief Operating Officer of The New Saints, Ian Williams, recently explained to Sgorio. “We're in very strange times. One of the challenges obviously is trying to find funding to support the clubs, not only short-term, but also in the longer-term. The important thing is sustainability for all of our clubs, and the sooner we can get supporters through the turnstiles the better so that there's money coming into the clubs. But there's not only that, there's commercial revenue, hospitality, bars and catering, so funding and finances are certainly the main challenges that we face.
“We're working very closely with the Football Association of Wales, and we've recently setup a working group, and the important thing is that this working group is driven by the clubs. The clubs are at the very heart of that decision making, and we're trying to find solutions to the funding that the clubs desperately need to survive. We've had some very positive dialogue with the FAW and we've looked at a number of avenues where we can access funding. FIFA have awarded money to each association, so we are looking at FIFA grants for each of the clubs. The National League in England, and I believe clubs in Northern Ireland, have all had funding through the National Lottery, so we're currently in negotiations to hopefully secure some funding that will help our clubs.”
The Orchard Welsh Premier Women's League has also returned having been granted elite status, but domestic football below the top flight has not yet resumed in any competitive sense. While the situation is frustrating for everyone involved, safety remains paramount, and every effort is being made for the game to return as quickly as possible across the board.