|WELSH football's much-criticised flagship competition is facing yet more potential chaos.
The proposed merger between Saints and Oswestry remains in jeopardy because of confusion over whether the new team would be able to compete in Europe from the proposed new stadium in Oswestry.
Two days ago the League published next season's fixtures, without Oswestry. League bosses may yet be forced into a dramatic U-turn and be forced to reschedule the fixtures with Oswestry involved.
TNS still await assurances from the FAW or UEFA that the merged club will be eligible for European competition.
Mike Harris insisted last night that the merger would not go through unless the guarantee was given and, while Saints are in the Welsh Premier fixture list for 2003/4, the confusion leaves Oswestry in limbo.
League secretary John Deakin is putting a bold face on the issue, insisting Oswestry could easily be slotted into the fixture list if the merger fails to go through.
Coming on the back of the farce surrounding Welshpool's controversial bid to remain in the league, this problem again draws unwelcome attention to the much-criticised Welsh Premier.
Harris accuses the FAW of dithering over the European issue, saying, "They have been non-committal on whether they would nominate us for a European place if the merged team played in a ground across the English border.
FAW letter as much use as a chocolate fireguard - Harris
"The letter I had from them regarding the issue was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard - it was full of 'ifs','perhaps' and 'maybes'.
"The FAW knew weeks ago about our plans to merge with Oswestry, so why didn't they contact UEFA straight away? As it is, there's less than a month to go before the start of the new season and we are still waiting for news.
"It is Oswestry we feel sorry for - they are in the lurch at the moment."
Deakin insists that Oswestry - who got rid of the bulk of their playing squad at the end of last season - could be slotted into the fixture schedule at short notice.
But Harris says it would be devastating for them - and TNS - if the merger failed to materialise.
"It would be upsetting for the people who have come to terms with change and had their hopes and expectations for the future raised," he said. "And it would obviously be very annoying for us who have put so much time and effort into this merger.
"But I'm afraid it will not go through unless we are assured we would be able to compete in Europe at the new stadium. The bottom line is we need a financial return on building the new ground and European competition gives you that.
"In a few weeks time, we take on Manchester City in the UEFA Cup - a fantastic occasion for the club and an important one in terms of finance.
"It would be folly if we were denied the opportunity in the future to host such a prestigious game at a new stadium in Oswestry."
Last night Deakin sought to defend the FAW's handling of the TNS-Oswestry merger. "As far as I am concerned, we have dealt with the matter as swiftly as possible," said Deakin, who is also the FAW's head of competitions.
"The FAW council approved the TNS-Oswestry merger and the clubs were informed accordingly. The clubs then asked for further clarification on the issue of competing in Europe.
"I have sought that clarification from UEFA and I'm waiting. I accept the new season is fast approaching and the issue needs to be resolved by the end of this month."