Throughout Premier League history, Welsh teams’ impact and achievements have been overlooked. Swansea City won the EFL Cup, now known as the Carabao Cup, in 2013 and have finished as FA Cup runner-ups. Cardiff City won the English FA Cup in 1927 and have finished as runners-up twice, most recently in 2008 and finished as EFL Cup runners-up the season prior to Swansea’s victory, losing on penalties to a Liverpool team that included Steven Gerrard, Luís Suarez, and Jordan Henderson. Wrexham, meanwhile, are the third oldest team in the world, founded 156 years ago, and have won countless Welsh trophies before switching to the English league.
Whilst lower-league teams Newport County and Merthyr Town have contributed less, it’s mainly because both of the clubs have recently been reformed. (And, for what it’s worth, Newport County are just a tier below Sunderland).
So this got me thinking: what would the Cymru (Welsh for Wales) Premier look like if these five Welsh teams played in Wales rather than England? Would it look like the Scottish Premiership, dominated by just Celtic and Rangers? Or would it become its own exporter of talent, and grow with the new opportunity to send teams to the Europa League? Let’s take a look.
For a starter, the Welsh Cymru Premier would be ranked a whole lot higher in the UEFA coefficient rankings. The coefficient rankings rank leagues based on quality, and those rankings decide how many teams from each of those leagues play in a European competition, like the Champions League, the top European competition, or the Europa League, the next best European competition. Now, there is a third competition for smaller countries: the Europa Conference League. The top ranked league in all of UEFA is currently Spain’s La Liga.
The Welsh national team is very good, ranked 18th in the world and 12th in Europe. So in theory, the Cymru Premier should be at least the 18th best league in Europe. The actual ranking? 50th. That’s behind Gibraltar, Kosovo, Malta, Faroe Islands, Moldova, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and tied with Montenegro. In fact, Wales have the joint fifth-worst league in Europe.
If Swansea City and Cardiff City joined the Cymru Premier today, they would easily be the top two teams in Wales. The team with the highest market value in the Cymru Premier is The New Saints FC with a market value of $1.18 million: the market value of all of the teams combined is $4.68 million. Swansea have six players with a market value bigger than the Welsh league’s, and Cardiff City have two.
Here’s how the table would look based on market values:
- Swansea City ($71.34 million, 2nd Tier of England)
- Cardiff City ($61.11 million, 2nd Tier of England)
- Newport County ($2.50 million, 4th Tier of England)
- The New Saints FC ($1.18 million, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Wrexham AFC ($1.02 million, 5th Tier of England)
- Bala Town FC ($880k, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Connah’s Quay Nomads FC ($770k, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Aberystwyth Town FC ($358k, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Barry Town United FC ($358k, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Flint Town United ($358k, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Cefn Druids AFC ($330k, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Newtown AFC ($248k, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Penybont FC ($193k, 1st Tier of Wales)
- FC Merthyr Town ($83k, 7th Tier of England)
- Caernarfon Town (No Market Value, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Cardiff Metropolitan University FC (No Market Value, 1st Tier of Wales)
- Haverfordwest County (No Market Value, 1st Tier of Wales)
If Merthyr Town, Swansea City, Cardiff City, Wrexham AFC, and Newport County were given a spot in the Cymru League, these market values would change. The prize money for reaching the Premier League would be gone for these teams, but something potentially even better would be available: European competition. The winner of the league plays in Champions League qualifiers, the runner-up plays in Europa League. The competition between Cardiff and Swansea, both of whom would be aiming for Europe rather than England’s top flight, would increase the finances in the Cymru League and eventually add to the amount of Welsh teams that can play in Europe over time. Wrexham’s value will be on the rise regardless due to the takeover of actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, but they would be bolstered by the prospect of a chance to go to Europe immediately. Merthyr Town’s value would rise because the prize money in the first tier of Wales is larger than that of England’s seventh tier, although Newport County’s value could actually go down because of the new competition.
The market values of the teams currently in the Cymru Premier would also fluctuate. Teams like The New Saints FC are used to finishing high in the league and playing in European qualifiers, and experiencing the financial benefits. With the new financial strength and competition, they would fall in the rankings and ultimately struggle. However, some of the lower teams might actually benefit if foreign investors decide to purchase the teams and take advantage of a league on the rise.
One thing that would benefit the league and most of the teams in the Cymru Premier is revenue. The Cymru Premier earns some of the least revenue in Europe, with Swansea City having over ten times the prize money of rest of the league combined. However, revenue-wise, it would be a struggle for Cardiff and Swansea. While the league would benefit with TV and radio revenue going way up, revenue and prize money for the two Championship sides would be far lower than the revenue of playing in England. Again, this should go up over time, but initially it could be worse and Cardiff and Swansea would need to do well in Europe to even come close to the amount of money the English have.
Most Welsh teams, Swansea and Cardiff City included, would benefit from the finances of adding these teams to the Cymru Premier. But would the national team benefit?
Welsh National Team
The Welsh team is currently ranked 18th in the world, ahead of the likes of Poland, USA, and South Korea. However, with a league ranked 50th in Europe, it’s clear that the players aren’t coming from the Cymru Premier.
Of the 34 players listed on Wales’ squad on Transfermarkt, just eight players play in Wales: four of them play for Cardiff, two for Swansea, and two for Newport County. None of them play in the Cymru Premier. A further nine have played (at some point in their careers) for Cardiff, seven for Swansea, two for Newport County, and one for Wrexham. Just one has ever played in the Cymru Premier: current Swansea defender Ben Cabango, who was loaned to The New Saints FC when he was 18. So no, the Cymru Premier isn’t exactly producing superstars at the moment.
However, this could change with the addition of the Welsh clubs in England joining. The New Saints FC would no longer have the strongest finances in the Cymru Premier. The only way for the current Cymru Premier teams to compete would be to upgrade their youth academies and gain their own young stars, who they would then sell to the bigger teams (Cardiff, Swansea, or a Premier League team) and gain massive profits. This is how some of Europe’s elite in leagues that can’t compete financially work, like Ajax. Meanwhile, Cardiff and Swansea would no longer have the benefits of easily loaning in Premier League players, so they, too, would have to focus on developing their youth academies.
All of the new youth competition and league value would benefit the national team significantly. They would have their own superstars playing in European competitions before moving on to the Premier League or La Liga when ready. It’s important to have players who get regular action, but right now the Welsh national team doesn’t have those players. They have to rely on Premier League youth players. Take Neco Williams, a 19 year-old at Liverpool. He’s been capped by the Welsh senior team six times, and has only played ten Premier League games. With a team like Swansea or Cardiff in the Cymru League, players like Neco Williams would gain valuable European tournament experience (assuming they qualify), as well as at a domestic level where they could excel.
The Cymru League will never really be on the rise without any superstars. David Beckham transformed American soccer after joining the MLS. The Chinese Super League would not be what it is today without the signings of Emboaba Oscar, Hulk, Javier Mascherano, and Carlos Tevez. Ronaldinho proved that the Brasileiro Série A is more than just a talent factory when he returned aged just 30. Tim Cahill made the Indian Super League popular after his famous spell in Jamshedspur.
Actually, you can forget that last one.
Nonetheless, stars help a league out massively, especially if it’s a national hero, like Ronaldinho in Flamengo. Gareth Bale is extremely unlikely to sign a contract with Bala Town FC for multiple reasons, finances aside. He’s even unlikely to return to a Cardiff or Swansea side in the second tier of England. However, a Cardiff team competing for the Champions League? Swansea looking to make that one last push for the Europa League final? That would be far more appealing to the aging stars of Wales’ golden era, which would benefit the league, national team, and players.
All of this is what could happen, not what would definitely happen. Regardless, it’s pretty clear to see that there are advantages and disadvantages of having Welsh teams actually play in Wales. It might take a little while for the move to prove beneficial to the big two (Cardiff City and Swansea City), but eventually it could work out. It might initially harm some of the bigger teams in the Cymru League, but eventually they would be forced to become contenders or they would suffer the consequences of relaxing in what is one of the statistically considered one of the worst leagues in Europe.
Let me know if you want me to write more articles like this in the future!
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