Merthyr Town will continue to play their games behind closed doors - with the Football Association of Wales suspending action across its’ competitions until at least January 9.
By Steven Oldham
Merthyr to play on as FAW suspends competitions
As The Martyrs play within the English football pyramid as members of the Southern League Premier South, they are able to continue - albeit without fans in attendance.
The Senedd’s (devolved Welsh Government) instruction to block fans from games beginning on Boxing Day comes after the rise in the Omricon variant of Covid-19. This has led the FAW to stop all football activity down to Tier 3 of the Welsh pyramid. They decided to act after speaking to clubs and assessing the financial impact of playing in empty grounds.
Merthyr’s 3-0 defeat against Yate Town on Bank Holiday Monday was the only game to take place in Wales over the Christmas weekend.
Cardiff City’s Championship game with Coventry, Newport County’s League Two tie with Forest Green Rovers and Wrexham vs Solihull Moors had already been called off due to a rise in Covid cases. Swansea City were due to play at Millwall but this fixture also failed to take place.
Board member: No shock to be forced behind closed doors
Board member Robert Davies has been associated with football in Merthyr for over 50 years. A teenage fan of predecessor club Merthyr Tydfil, the 69-year-old has taken various voluntary roles over the years. He’s been on the board for the past two years, contributing to business planning at the club.
“I wasn’t shocked when I heard the news, it’s something that had been mentioned previously. Last summer, when the pandemic first hit, the Senned made the decision to play behind closed doors. We decided that we didn’t have the capital reserves to allow us to play games without matchday income.
“Of all 88 clubs at Step 3, we would be the only club that would have to play behind closed doors. The National Game Board said last autumn that if Step 3 clubs weren’t allowed any matchday income, then the season wouldn’t have started.
“We approached the Southern League to suspend the season on this basis and they approved that decision. We’re back where we were 12-15 months ago. The Senedd are hoping it’s only a firebreak this time, with the rise in hospitalisations and fatalities not being as bad as predicted,” he said.
Financial impact lessened by Senedd funding
Merthyr will benefit from Senedd funding to recover lost income from being forced to play at an empty Penydarren Park. Town - celebrating their 10th anniversary this year as a reformed club - have been averaging around 500 fans at each home game so far this year.
“To be fair to the Senned, they appreciate that their decision last time to play behind closed doors would have had a major economic impact on all clubs in Wales, especially in non-league.
“Our club is owned and run by the fans, we have no major benefactors putting in substantial amounts of money. Every penny that we spend, we have to earn first. This fund could be a lifeline for us if we continue to play behind closed doors into January and February. If the funding hadn’t been made available it’s possible that we would have to postpone games and play them later in the season. We don’t want to get into a situation where games are piling up.
“We didn’t have any football at the ground for 18 months so people were glad to get back through the turnstiles. We’re in a rugby stronghold in South East Wales, but the Merthyr area has always had strong support for football,” Davies said.
Merthyr’s next game is a trip to Swindon Supermarine on New Year’s Day.