English football, especially when we talk about their first tier league, which was first known as the First Division and now as the Premier League since its rebranding back in 1992, has often being portrayed as the face of the sport in the entirety of the United Kingdom and that has played a big role in how the other leagues in the islands are often viewed as. Like it or not, that is often how things are developed.
The reality is a lot more complex than that and we need to take that into account. Yes, English football is the most famous league in the UK and it is very likely to be the most known in the planet as a whole (although that could be debated), but the reality is that the football leagues in the other nations are on different situations and contexts and Welsh football is a very good example of how different things can be to the former First Division and modern day Premier League.
“Welcome to the home of the most expensive footballer in the world, a country where all the top players go to foreign leagues – and so do most of the top clubs. Swansea City, Cardiff City, Newport County, Wrexham, Merthyr Town and Colwyn Bay are Welsh clubs who play in English leagues. Meanwhile the champions of the Welsh Premier League, The New Saints, are from Shropshire, England. Football in Wales is complicated. It is also improving.”
This is a bit more complicated than what Doyle states in that paragraph and in the article as a whole, but the reality is somewhat there: Welsh football has often being about trying to improve and struggling in that particular regard due to resources and the fact that a lot of players, especially the most talented ones, prefer to leave for greener pastures in Scotland and England, which also keeps their local leagues from growing as the biggest and most important assets (the players) are not there.
However, there have been multiple attempts to try to improve the many different tiers of football in Wales and make them a much more effective, stable and positive platform for the growth and development of the players and also to offer a much better product for football audiences. And back in the mid-70s, there was an attempt of a similar ilk known as the Clwyd Football League.
The proposal to create this new league format was done back in 1974, specifically in February, with the idea of combining the Halkyn and Dyserth District Leagues into one, with both of them being at a Division III level in the North Wales hierarchy.
The reasoning behind this proposal, which was done at a time where football in Wales was going through a bit of a time of upheaval (although that has been a running theme throughout the years), was to develop a Division II status, which would prove to be beneficial at a time where no league division in the league was in that particular pecking order.
Of course, the creation of a new league also involves the creation of elected officers in order to keep everything balance and well-run. In the case of the Clwyd Football League, this was implemented with the following order of elected officers: E J Owen, President; Dr H.D. McKenzie, Chairman; Elfed Ellis, Vice Chairman; Noel Price, Secretary; B. Gough Roberts, Fixture Secretary; P.A. White, Treasurer; L.M. Williams, Assistant Treasurer; D. Fleming and R.E.M. Jones at Registration Secretary.
Another motivation that played a huge factor in the development of this league, which was spearheaded by the late Elfed Ellis, was the fact that there was a notorious decrease in football in some different areas of the country where the Halkyn and Dyserth District Leagues were taking place and that was something that Ellis, along with many other personalities of Welsh football at the time, saw as very concerning.
For example, there was an important decrease in interest about the Halkyn District League and that was one of the prime motivations–if Welsh football already had issues at the time, this was a very telling sign that things needed to change. Ellis himself stated at the time that “It would go a long way to bridge the gap between the Welsh League (North) Division I and Division III and it would do much to raise the standard of local football”.
The league properly started in the 1974-75 season and it featured a grand total of ten football clubs. The ideal figure that was analyzed to be the ideal one for this project, according to the Management Committee, was fourteen teams, but they only managed to agree to ten. By and large, the first season was quite successful and there were no major issues, which was quite positive when you consider that new leagues and new league formats usually tend to be quite problematic in terms of organization and structure.
The ten elected teams were: Prestatyn Town, Point of Ayr, Flint Town United, Connah’s Quay Nomads, Rhyl Wanderers, Saltney Social, Denbigh Town, Courtaulds Greenfield, Courtaulds Flint, and Summers Sports.
This was something that would prove to be quite beneficial for a lot of different teams and would provide a bit of balance, which was something that Ellis stated at the time. It would also last over thirty years, which proves how much of an impact this league format had and the degree of stability that it provided at a time when there was a certain lack of Division II status leagues in Wales.
The Clwyd Football League is a very good example of how contrasting the league is to what we have seen in English football throughout the years and how Welsh football is in a constant state of change and upheaval, often trying many different things to make a positive impact in their countries’ development when it comes to this sport.