Cymru Premier: Mike Harris wary of ‘change for change’s sake’ – NewsEverything Wales

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Cymru Premier: Mike Harris wary of ‘change for change’s sake’ – NewsEverything Wales
Cymru Premier: Mike Harris wary of ‘change for change’s sake’ – NewsEverything Wales

New Saints players celebrate winning the Cymru Premier in 2023
New Saints players celebrate winning the Cymru Premier in 2023

New Saints owner Mike Harris says Cymru Premier clubs have to be “careful what they wish for” over reforms to the league.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) has undertaken a review of the league with the proposals expected to be unveiled in the summer.

One suggestion has been a north-south split for the first half of the season.

The leading teams from each section would facing each other in the second half of the campaign under that plan.

FAW’s senior competitions manager Nick Davies did not rule out a north-south split and said nothing was off the table.

But Harris told BBC Radio Wales Sport: “Change for change’s sake is never a good thing.

“I’m all ears open, but my words to the FAW is very much great, bring on something new and exciting, but tell us where the money is so all the other teams can participate in a full-time manner.

“Go and find a sponsor, go and get TV rights and bring funding to the game so all the clubs can have a helping hand to take them to a consistent better level.

“We’ll go with the majority and we don’t mind what format they do come up with, but all we’d say is that change for change’s sake needs to be slightly tempered with ‘where’s the funding for the game’?”

Since the 2010-11 season, the league has operated with 12 teams and options for the future include a further reduction or expansion and a switch to summer football.

Current champions Saints are the only full-time club in the league and are close to securing a 15th title, currently 15 points ahead of nearest rivals Connah’s Quay Nomads.

“I know there’s a lot of people who find the 12-team league to be a bit repetitive, but when you look at it the difficulty you have it is the funding for the game,” Harris told BBC Radio Wales.

“What we’ve always been in support of is as many teams as possible to have the best calibre of players as possible.

“When Welsh clubs compete in Europe, from our own research, there’s only teams from San Marino that have lower wage bills than anybody that competes in Wales.

“An one thing about the current competition is that there’s something in it for everybody all the way through the season.

“In the bad old days when there was many more teams people would give it a go at the start of the season and perhaps find they were safe in mid-table and the committees would then pull the budget.

“So you could have a team that was competitive at one end of the season and then not competitive at the other end of the season so it didn’t really give a consistency of play.”

Since the start of 2022-23 the FAW has been consulting club officials and supporters as part of a strategic review of the league, formed in 1992.

Over recent weeks the FAW has held a number of meetings with Cymru Premier clubs to discuss the recommendations.

The New Saints chairman Mike Harris
Mike Harris became involved with Llansantffraid before they merged with Oswestry to form The New Saints

The FAW’s Davies acknowledged that it would be “impossible to get a consensus” but it had been crucial that clubs were part of the process.

“It’s been a long process and I think most people recognise that this is something that’s been in the works and necessary for Welsh football for a number of years,” Davies said.

“We’ve been engaging with various stakeholders on that front and that extends to below Tier 1, working with clubs in the Cymru North and Cymru South to figure out exactly what we want this league to stand for.

“We’re getting close to the end now, but not quite there and it’s a case of putting a bit of meat on the bones to get to a finalised strategy for an exciting future for Welsh football, I hope.”

FAW president Steve Williams had said ahead of the review that the governing body would be “open minded” over potential reforms to the competition.

Amid speculation of a geographical split for the Cymru Premier, Davies said “everything was on the table” and nothing was being ruled out.

“We’ve got to be open minded to absolutely anything and everything that’s possible in the realms of the regulations,” Davies added.

“Anything radical is obviously welcomed as part of that process, but obviously it’s got to comply with Uefa regulations too.

“Anything as radical as that we’d still have to check with those guys at the top to make sure we’re binding by the regulations to make it work.

“It’s a pretty divisive debate in many ways, but as long as the format helps us achieve the end goal of the strategy, we’ll be pretty comfortable with whatever it is.”

Harris also suggested having a competition which would involve Wales’ English based clubs, who have been barred from playing in the Welsh Cup since 1995.

The New Saints owner cited the FAW Premier Cup, a competition that was televised by BBC Wales between 1997 and 2008 and which involved the leading England-based Welsh professional clubs as well as domestic teams.

“Perhaps there could be a secondary competition that would allow you to include Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham and Newport.

“That could be quite interesting from a television perspective.

“To get the levels of funding to make a difference in our league we’ve got to go beyond the boundaries of Wales and to do that we have to have a product that’s capable of drawing viewers to watch that.”


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