Reblog (via @markpitman1): Cup connections stretch into the community

The below is an insightful look at how grassroots football is engaging with young people in two Welsh communities – Clydach Vale in the Rhondda, and Port Talbot – in order to promote positive and healthy decision-making by them.

Mark Pitman writes perceptively about all manner of issue pertaining to football in Wales. The seemingly wall-to-wall, year-round saturation of England’s Premier League has a stymieing effect on other leagues’ efforts at securing media exposure, and so any additional coverage that the grassroots game in Wales can receive is always welcome. However, not only is the coverage of the Premier League so pervasive. There is a very real danger that its increasingly exploitative commodification of supporters’ loyalty and debt-laden financial models are seeping across the border. If Cardiff City’s arrival in the Premier League under Vincent Tan’s ownership is the most high profile example in Wales, it has happened at less rarefied tiers in the game in Wales. Barry Town, Wrexham, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath FC and Llanelli have all struggled financially and in some cases have done so with a sole owner in charge whose erratic and increasingly megalomaniac behaviour has wilfully alienated and disenfranchised supporters and wider communities.

I have previously argued that football clubs in Wales would do well to adopt a community development approach that draws on the local community as members and though the mutual, fan-owned model has relatively healthy in Wales with Wrexham FC, Merthyr Town, Barry Town United, and to a lesser extent Swansea City, it is more than just about the structures that new fan-owned clubs adopt but the principles that underpin them. A fan-owned club which lacks transparency, is undemocratic and which doesn’t seek to involve the community in its fabric is only marginally better than one owned by the likes of Stuart Lovering (Barry Town), Geraint Hawkes (Neath FC) or Mark Guterman (Wrexham). My experience as a member of Wrexham Supporters’ Trust – and therefore a proud co-owner of Wrexham FC – suggests that values of transparency, self determination and democracy are in abundance within these fan-owned clubs. Nonetheless it is heartening to see other community development principles such as empowerment and participation also present at the grassroots in the likes of Clydach Vale and Port Talbot.

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