THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

19 June ~ Club v country? It's an age old debate, but one that has been settled in Wales. Quite simply, the club now wins every time. Last month saw Swansea City beat Reading at a packed Wembley Stadium. They were cheered on by 40,000 passionate supporters, with the chorus of Hymns and Arias ringing round the stadium. Three days before, the Welsh national side finally won under Gary Speed in the Nations Cup. The game was played in front of 529 spectators, of whom less than half were Welsh.

Admittedly, these are only two extreme examples. One a play-off final for the right to be in next season's Premier League and the other a meaningless match played in a neutral country by two teams trying to avoid the wooden spoon in a competition that has failed to catch the public's imagination. However, it is indicative of the way the fortunes of Wales's national and club sides have polarised over the last few years. It was always said that a strong Cardiff and Swansea could only benefit football in Wales. But now that both have achieved relative recent success following years of stagnation in the lower leagues, the national side has plunged down to 114th in the FIFA rankings.

This decline has been mirrored by a fall in public interest. While the Euro qualifier with England saw a predictable sell-out at the Millennium Stadium, very few of those fans will bother to watch the autumn matches at home to Montenegro and Switzerland. One will be played at Swansea and the other Cardiff, and attendances will be less than half of the numbers that turn out to watch the club sides. Swansea are likely to sell out every home game. And Cardiff will still play in front of around 20,000 people next season, despite being without a manager and having lost some of their best players. It's somewhat ironic that Premier League stars such as Ramsey, Hennessey and Bale will find themselves playing to bigger, more passionate crowds when they play in Wales against Swansea than when they represent their country.

Can anything be done to shift the current balance back in favour of the national side? In the longer term the increased profile that a successful Swansea and Cardiff will bring to football in Wales will undoubtedly be of benefit. The increased media exposure and finance will help speed up the current process whereby football in South Wales is replacing rugby union in the public psyche as the national game. In the shorter term, however, the Welsh national team will only get close to matching the support and interest generated by the country's two most prominent clubs by winning some games and giving the public something to cheer. Paul Ashley-Jones

Comments (7)
Comment by Harry Truscott 2011-06-19 11:01:53

" Swansea are likely to sell out every home game. And Cardiff will still play in front of around 20,000 people next season despite being without a manager and having lost some of their best players. "

Can't your write a piece about the national side and the strength of the club game in Wales without a cheap inaccurate dig at Cardiff?

I hate to get involved in the cock-measuring contest of comparing crowd sizes but as you've deliberately written the above lines to mask the fact let's look at them. We'll probably match or exceed last season's 23,000 next campaign which exceeds the capacity at The Liberty which Swansea might finally manage to regularly sell out (something that previously has only tended to happen when we visit).

I'm also happy to correct you about not having a manager as we've just hired quite a promising one. Personally, I'm looking forward to fresh blood on the playing side as well as in charge of the team given the spectacular choking of recent seasons.

Swansea deserve huge congratulations for their recent achievements and have got so much to rightly celebrate, it's just a pity that they can't do so without revealing their obsession with us.

Comment by Liffrok 2011-06-19 14:33:32

Oh come off it. Nothing in that article suggests that the author is even a Swansea supporter, let alone that he's making cheap digs about Cardiff. "An obsession with us"? Hardly, just a minor passing detail about how CCFC are better supported than the Welsh national team.

Comment by pesdaboi 2011-06-19 15:02:53

This is something that's been brewing for a while. I hope to one day see a return to our National team's attendances during the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign (full Millennium Stadium every home game) - not great to be playing in no more than half full stadiums with empty seats facing you. However this is all obviously dependant on the performance of the team on the pitch. We've shown slight glimers of hope under new boss Gary Speed - hope he's given time to build a squad capable of possibly bringing us our first apperance at a major finals tournament since 1958.

Comment by Duncan Gardner 2011-06-19 16:41:22

"our first apperance at a major finals tournament since 1958"

Bore da, NI fan in peace. Just wanted to say that you shouldn't ignore 1976. You did make the last eight even if the 'event' only included semis and final.

Comment by Jorge Porbillas 2011-06-19 20:48:36

This is about SOUTH Wales, right?

Comment by Jongudmund 2011-06-21 17:07:50

The reason not many people turn up to watch Wales these days can be summed up in 2 words: John Toshack.

Recently my Dad was having a moan about the damage Toshack did to the national team and cited his alienation of Robbie Savage at the very beginning of his tenure as when it all started to go wrong.

Yes, Toshack's Wales played so badly that having Savage in the team was thought to be a preferable alternative.

Plus there was the FAW scam just after Toshack was appointed where you had to buy an entire qualifying campaign's worth of tickets to make sure you got a ticket to see Wales v England. A surprising number were sold. Towards the end of the campaign, people literally couldn't give their tickets away.

After several years of rubbish, it's no wonder the Wales fans can't be bothered any more. I'm one of them. I stopped going to internationals and I don't plan to start going again.

Comment by pashley 2011-06-23 12:24:42

Thanks for all your comments. Harry - yes I am a Swansea City season ticket holder, as well as a season ticket holder at Welsh Premier Club Carmarthen Town. The article was not a dig at Cardiff however, more a reflection on the state of the National side. When it was written Cardiff had yet to appoint a new manager. I wish you (and all Welsh clubs) well for the forthcoming season. Jorge - I focused on the 2 South Wales clubs because that is where the success at club level has happened. Football has always been the most popular game in North Wales but it desperately needs Wrexham to regain its Football League status to increase the profile there. As for the National side, Jongudmund sums up how many feel and we need to turn the obvious potential into actual results if we are ever going to persuade the fans to take an interest again.

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