Competition is the cornerstone of the JD Cymru Leagues, but the challenge of playing competitive football throughout the course of the pandemic has proved to be the toughest test for our clubs over the course of last season.

However, a £750,000 support package from The National Lottery, established by the Football Association of Wales and facilitated by the UK Government, enabled all 12 clubs in Tier 1 to receive vital funding to continue to operate, with the JD Cymru Premier subsequently completing every fixture in the domestic season. Tier 2 clubs will receive their funding when they return to play for the 2021/22 season.

One of these top-flight clubs was Barry Town United. A famous name in the domestic game, the club reached the play-offs despite being unable to welcome fans through the gates throughout the course of the entire campaign. “The off the field pressure on volunteers at Tier 1 clubs has been significant,” explained Barry Town United Media Officer Hannah Chesterfield to FC Cymru. “The Return to Play Protocols were rightly robust, but as clubs led by volunteers, it's a significant ask for us.

“It was fantastic to see The National Lottery, a game many of us play weekly, giving back to football at a time when clubs needed help the most. The lost revenue for most clubs was substantial and one we had not planned for at the start of this season. I don't think anyone envisaged us being without our supporters and our clubhouses closed for the majority of the season.

“The Return to Play Protocols put together by the FAW were necessary to keep our squad safe and ensuring they keep each other safe during such a difficult time. For our players one of the toughest aspects has been not sharing a changing room together. The changing room is their inner sanctum; where much of the bonding takes place. We hired Portakabins at a considerable cost, but there is no supplement for all the players being together in one area.

“First and foremost the squad know they have been extremely privileged to play football during a time when thousands have been unable to do so. It has given many of them a focus during difficult times off the field. However, as a club we have always had at the front of our mind that our squad and staff are putting themselves and their families at risk each week in training and games to represent our football club and for that we will be eternally grateful.

“Something I didn't expect to come out of this season was how closely the clubs and the FAW worked together to find a way through these difficult times. Whilst we were competitors on the pitch for 90 minutes each week; off it we became friends and I've certainly made some friends for life due to how closely we have all worked together. The main objective of our working group was to make that, at the end of the season, we'd still have 12 clubs who would be financially sound and alive and The National Lottery funding ultimately helped ensure this. 

“Putting on a game behind closed doors during a pandemic is not for the faint hearted. There are so many roles to fulfil to ensure everyone keeps safe. For clubs like ourselves everyone who works behind the scenes is ultimately a supporter and volunteer who predominantly have families and jobs. It would be wrong of us to name any one individual as there are an army of temperature checkers, stewards and ball boys who have gone above and beyond and this is no doubt the same for all JD Cymru Leagues clubs. We can't thank our volunteers enough for the work they have done and hope we can reward them very soon with a return to the stands at Jenner Park.”

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