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THE PREMIER CUP

Last night was the final of the FAW Premier Cup - a competition in which all of the "leading" clubs in Wales take part. If you see my remarks about the standard of football of the Exile clubs being such that they are unable to compete these days, you will be pleased to know that the three full-tme professional exiles, Wrexham, Cardiff City and Swansea City, were knocked out in earlier rounds of the competition.
 
The final last night was between The New Saints and another of the exiles, Newport County, at the latter's ground of Spytty Park (or Sh***y Park as it is known in Welsh footballing circles).
 
"Hang on a second" I hear you say. "How come the game wasn't played at a neutral venue as is the custom?" Well, the answer to that is that what with TNS being situated in Llansantffraid, which is somewere "up there", a neutral venue would be something like "halfway up there". It's rather far from Ceaucescu's Palace, and the Football Association of Wales officials start to suffer from nosebleeds and other signs of altitude sickness the higher up the map of Wales they climb. Always assuming that they could find a native porter to carry the gin cabinet in the first place, that is.
 
"It's still not right, though" you continue. "Why couldn't they have played it at Treflan, the home ground of TNS?". Well, the club's owner, Mike Harris asked the same question. He was told by the FAW that Treflan "was not considered suitable". That is of course arrant nonsense. Treflan qualifies in all respects for Welsh Premier League matches.
 
Further enquiry revelaed that the club "did not have the infrastructure required". This was later translated into English by another spokesman as the club not having "adequate entertainment facilities for FAW officials"".
 
Adequate facilities for spectators, the quality of the playing surface or accommodation for TV equipment is, of course, another matter entirely. Treflan has a television gantry, and it's a good one, too, whereas Newport Country was obliged to spend £10,000 to build one at Sh***y Park for the film crew that would be coming. To film the football, we were told, not the booze-up. .
 
This is, by the way, the same Sh***y Park that was the venue of the infamous coin-throwing incident. So rather than seize a magnificent PR exercise to punish the Newport County fans for their violence, the FAW is quite prepared to let the match officials to run the risk of serious injury as long as there's some decent hospitality floating around for the suits of Ceaucescu's Palace.
 
So I'm glad that mystery was cleared up. The Premier Cup Final isn't a trial of strength between two towering titans. It's not a feast of football for frenzied fans. It's not a glittering television specatacular either - it's a booze-up for the boys in the band from Ceaucescu's Palace.
 
As is customary in FAW circles, the news about the chosen venue wasn't communicated at first to TNS - it was merely posted on the FAW's web site and the officials of TNS read it there. Most of you might complain about this lack of courtesy or the contempt in which the FAW treats its member clubs. The rest of you will have already read my comments on other pages about how David Collins treats the clubs in Wales, and how he manipulates them like pawns on his own private chessboard. You aren't surprised at all.
 
TNS appealed against the decision and asked for the matter to be referred to an FAW Disciplinary Panel. Such a disciplinary panel is run by the ... er ... FAW, so any decision can already be anticipated. But the request was refused. Not the appeal - but the request to even have an appeal. Not even the slightest possibility of a loaded disciplinary panel giving an unwelcome verdict to the FAW must stand in the way of the officials being able to toddle home to bed after a rip-roaring expense accounted evening in someone else's entertainment facilities.
 
And the football? TNS won 1-0. Ha ha ha.



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