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THE FAW and 18 of its leading clubs are at each other's throats this morning over the refusal by Welshpool to accept their relegation from the Welsh Premier league.
The extraordinary rumpus has led to FAW president Des Shanklin calling for an urgent meeting to stop what he dubs a "them and us" scenario ripping apart the game in Wales.
Catalyst for the row came at a special meeting in Aberystwyth on Saturday when the Welsh Premier's 18 clubs unanimously backed Welshpool's wish to remain in the league - even though they finished in the bottom two.
Shanklin then stood up to announce he had an FAW management committee mandate to block the move under a largely unknown rule. Shanklin explained that the FAW had the final say because of a general rights share which gives them 51 per cent of any decision-making on the Welsh Premier.
But the unprecedented FAW move, which had been agreed at a behind-closed-doors meeting last Thursday, sparked uproar amongst the league's 18 stunned clubs. They immediately demanded an appeal hearing against the decision.
No one blamed Shanklin for his actions, league clubs accepting he was acting upon FAW orders. But the president admitted yesterday, "It was not a nice position for me to be put in. I wouldn't say it was embarrassing for me, but it was certainly awkward.
"But the point is I had no option but to go ahead with it because, firstly I was mandated to do so by my management committee, and secondly because it was for the good of Welsh football.
"However, clearly there is a massive split on this issue in the short term and I am urging the two parties to get together and resolve it amicably.
"We have to reduce the league in numbers and I hope we can do it in a sensible manner.
"I can appreciate why clubs feel very strongly about what we are doing, because they have spent enormous sums.
"But the fact is the FAW have made a decision that the league must reduce to 14 by 2006, and we are sticking to that.
"The last thing I want is a them-and-us attitude. I want everyone to be united for the sake of Welsh football and I hope the people involved will see commonsense.
Welshpool made their plea to remain in the league because Neath were refused permission to be promoted, their ground not being deemed up to scratch. But the FAW insist bottom two Welshpool and Llanelli must go down as they seek to reduce numbers.
[From the Western Mail, national newspaper of Wales]
9 June 2021
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