|by Ian Hunt, The Western Mail
THE full depth of bad feeling generated between Welsh soccer bigwigs and clubs in Wales' flagship league is today revealed by a Western Mail investigation.
We have learned that the rapport between the FA of Wales and clubs in the Welsh Premier has never been so bad.
At a time when Mark Hughes' national side, Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham are on such a high, the civil war raging just below the top tier is threatening to do lasting damage to Welsh football.
Our survey of the Welsh Premier teams has found:
CLUBS are furious with the FAW for insisting the League should be scaled down to 14 teams, claiming no reasons have been given for the plan;
MANY accuse the FAW of heavy-handedness and being unsympathetic to their concerns;
LEAGUE bosses are desperate for a greater share of cash from the Uefa pot;
CLUBS fear moves to reduce the league would cripple them financially.
The FAW and 18 of their leading clubs have been at each other's throats since the governing body blocked a move by the clubs to keep Welshpool in the league.
Club chiefs say the FAW's behaviour - they used their little-known general rights share to block the Welshpool move - raises questions about their backing of the league.
Some have talked about refusing to start the season while others are demanding urgent talks with the FAW to resolve the conflict.
Dave Simmons, the chairman of North Wales side Rhyl, fears the rift could do lasting damage to Welsh football if it is not healed fast.
"I have never known the rapport between the clubs and the FAW be as bad as it is at present," said Simmons.
"A lot of anger is felt towards the FAW and there's no doubt it is having a damaging effect on Welsh football.
"That is why the matter must be resolved quickly. We need the FAW to understand the animosity and the anxiety that exists among the clubs.
"The trouble is there seems to be a real communication problem at the moment.
"We are desperate for some constructive dialogue, but the FAW keep refusing to meet the league's board of directors.
"And it seems that regardless of what we say or vote for, the FAW just turn round and do whatever they want to do.
"This would not happen in the Premiership or the Nationwide League would it?"
Central to the anger felt by the clubs is the effect a reduction in the size of the league would have on their finances.
Clubs argue they are already struggling to make ends meet on the cash they currently receive and claim a league of 14 teams would cripple them.
"Finance is the root of the problem," said Simmons. "In a nutshell, Welsh football can only move forward if proper funding is in place.
"That is why the clubs voted unanimously for Welshpool to remain in the league and why we passed a resolution to remain at 18 teams."
Simmons went on, "What rankles us is the Wales national team has never been so successful and the FAW has a big sum of money as a result, yet the amount that filters through to the Welsh Premier is pitiful.
"As an example, the funding Rhyl received for last season was something like £2,200 which is nothing when you have a fixture in South Wales every other week to fulfil.
"Compare that with the £25,000 our neighbours Colwyn Bay got in the Unibond League and you can understand why we considered rejoining the English pyramid a little while back.
"And is it any wonder the Welsh Premier clubs struggle to make progress in Europe when the funding is as bad as it is?
"If Nationwide Conference clubs competed in Europe I am certain they would do infinitely better than us because the finance is far greater.
"Most people within the Welsh Premier will tell you the money we get is not good enough and the answer sits with the FAW."
But Simmons and many of the clubs we surveyed insist reducing the league to 14 teams is not the answer.
"That would have a devastating effect on our finances," he said.
"Clubs would not be able to sustain the loss of revenue caused by a reduction in the number of fixtures. The FAW have no comprehension of this and furthermore don't seem to care.
"Otherwise, why would they have pulled out their golden share rule at the EGM to block the Welshpool motion?"
Despite the uproar, Simmons believes it would be wrong for the Welsh Premier to break away from FAW control.
He said, "We need more autonomy - at least to negotiate a decent television deal for ourselves - but a wholesale breakaway is not the answer.
"There must be a partnership between us and the FAW."
Asked whether clubs would resort to strike action if talks with the FAW failed to yield a solution, Simmons said, "That is something I can't answer.
"I would like to think we are reasonable gentleman who can get round a table and work it out through dialogue.
"But work it out me must - and quickly. We cannot move forward until this dispute is resolved."