My expectations were not so much low as subterranean, yet somehow or other the Communities, Equality & Local Government (CELG) Committee of the Assembly has managed to undershoot them. The findings of its inquiry into the Welsh Premier League (WPL) were published this week, perfectly synchronised with Llanelli fending off another HMRC winding-up order in the High Court. I have been speed-reading the 51-page document so that you don’t have to. Guess what? The stunning cowardice, stupidity, ineptitude and dereliction of duty on display plunges governance in Wales to new depths.
Let’s begin with me. Since this was an open public inquiry my submission could not just be ignored. I forced a reaction to the one and only reason the WPL is in such a terrible state that it requires an inquiry in the first place: the fact that the wealthiest, most powerful domestic football pyramid in the world operates within Welsh borders. Well, here is the CELG Committee’s considered response to this issue, tucked away on page 38:
“This is an issue that some witnesses feel very strongly about. However, we do not believe that it would be useful to make any further comment, as we do not believe we can have any influence on the situation.”
Yes, that’s it, word for word. I’ll nail the precise meaning: ”That awkward bastard Dic Mortimer has put us on the spot. We can’t refute his arguments, because they are obviously right, but we won’t endorse them, because nothing must upset the status quo, challenge powerful vested interests or assert Welsh autonomy. Therefore our lips are sealed. Because that’s such a blatant cop-out, we deign to chuck in this excuse: we are an impotent, irrelevant talking-shop – didn’t the little shit realise that?”
Earlier on in the document, when presenting the issue of the clubs playing in England, the inquiry quotes chunks of my submission, littered with multiple transcription errors. Considering the huge staffing and technological resources at the Assembly’s disposal and the months taken to prepare the document, this failure to reach minimal standards of professional competence came as something of a surprise – until I realised that only my submission out of all the many quoted received such contemptuously slapdash treatment.
All these Assembly reports come with the same prominent warning: “The text of this document may be reproduced free of charge in any format or medium providing that it is reproduced accurately and not used in a misleading or derogatory context.” I suggest that this publicly-funded body should set an example and apply these rules to itself. My text has been reproduced inaccurately and misleadingly. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, so I will now reproduce their text – and as “derogatory” is going spare, I shall do my best…
Here are the nine recommendations the CELG Committee has come up with, along with handy translations for those who don’t speak Gobbledygook.
1) “The FAW, Welsh Government and Sport Wales should develop a co-ordinated approach to developing football in Wales. The Minister for Sport should report back to the Assembly on the progress of discussions.”
TRANSLATION: Huw Lewis will be hosting lots of long, all-expenses-paid lunches.
2) “The FAW and Welsh Government should explore how the WPL clubs can support the delivery of broader policy objectives and the support that the clubs can access, financial or otherwise, to do so.”
3) “The FAW needs to prioritise communication and relationship building with the WPL clubs, because without their co-operation, it will not be possible to deliver any of their strategies.”
4) “The Welsh Government should work with the FAW to develop a strategy to outline its vision for WPL clubs as community hubs, to ensure that the strategy supports the wider vision of supporting grassroots football and widening participation.”
TRANSLATION: Has anyone done the vision thing yet?
5) “The Welsh Government should develop a strategy for developing 3/4G¹ pitches across Wales.”
TRANSLATION: The Strategy Development Implementation Steering Group Sub-Committee will meet in the Eli Jenkins.
6) “The FAW and Local Authorities should explore opportunities for WPL clubs wishing to develop the community hub model to seek financial support for the development of 3/4G pitches.”
TRANSLATION: You’re not getting a fucking penny off us.
7) “As part of the FAW’s proposed Community Hub model, the FAW and Local Authorities should work together to ensure that the clubs have assistance to reach all parts of their communities.”
TRANSLATION: Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens.
8) “The FAW and Sport Wales should explore how the academy system can be used to support grassroots football.”
TRANSLATION: Isn’t it time for lunch yet?
9) “The FAW and Sport Wales should explore whether additional financial assistance can be put in place to support young people who wish to play football, but who find it difficult to do so because of the financial demands (e.g. purchase of kit, travelling costs etc).”
TRANSLATION: That should keep Julie Morgan quiet.
But you know what? Something in me has shifted with the publication of this inquiry. I set out to open minds and change the future of Welsh football, and I failed completely. When the institution legally bound to “protect the interests of Wales” can’t be bothered, why should I waste any more energy? I’m not a masochist and I’m a busy guy. Even I can tire of banging my head against a brick wall. Even I can be lulled by the ‘It’s Impossible’ chorus. Even I will finally internalise the hammered home message that we Welsh are hopeless losers without a shred of national loyalty. I throw in the towel.
I hope now for the rapid dissolution of the FAW, resignation from FIFA and UEFA, the cessation of all national club competitions and involvement in European club competitions, and the abandonment of Wales’ international status. Wales can then be incorporated entirely into England and its clubs distributed around the appropriate regional leagues. There! The Welsh anomaly sorted! Easy!
And it wouldn’t hurt…it actually wouldn’t hurt…Dic, you daft sod, it wouldn’t hurt…
This is my 25th blog in the football category, and my last. I’m done with football². It’s no loss; it’s my least-read category. I will leave the material online for the record. Perhaps, in years to come, when Wales is a real nation not a sham nation, and we are at last ready to appreciate the fantastic privilege of being allowed to participate in the world’s beautiful game, perhaps then some future researcher might stumble on my heartfelt appeals in some dusty corner of the internet and know that there was one Welshman around back in the early 21st century who was looking for another way.