Taking liberties

When a Labour First Minister in Cardiff Bay and a Tory Welsh Secretary in Westminster sing from the same hymn-sheet in complete harmony and accord, then you are guaranteed to be hearing bullshit of the highest order.

So the predictable reactions of Carwyn Jones and Cheryl Gillan to Swansea City’s promotion to the English league’s top flight after a gap of 28 years (“great news for Wales”, “a huge boost for the economy”, “tens of thousands of new visitors”, “raise the profile of Swansea and Wales internationally”, blah, blah, blah) are very informative – in the sense that whatever this pair agree on, the polar opposite will be the truth.

To start with, the supposed economic bonanza is a myth.  Tourism and boomtimes have not noticeably showered upon places like Blackburn, Bolton, Sunderland, Wigan, etc, despite their football clubs’ regular presence in the Premier League.  All it means is that 3 – 5,000 Englishmen will descend on the city on 19 occasions once a fortnight.  They will drink a few beers, watch the match, grab a burger and then fuck off back to Newton-le-Willows or wherever.  A handful will make a weekend of it in the hope of some drunken mayhem and a shag on the Mumbles Mile.  If the Swansea economy is pinning its hopes on their spending it’s in a worse state than Jones and Gillan have ever acknowledged.

Then there is the laughable idea that the presence of Sky Sports cameras at the Liberty Stadium now and then will be “good for Wales”, an all-too familiar refrain from the apologists for Wales’ embarrassing global invisibility.  In this formulation Wales must never exist in its own right like everywhere else, so will have to make do with life by proxy and be absurdly grateful when occasionally asked to make up the numbers at somebody else’s party.  Swansea City show contempt for Wales year after year as they plough scarce Welsh resources and energies into English football, already the wealthiest in the world, while snubbing their own penniless national pyramid.  When it suits them they drape themselves in the Red Dragon as a flag of convenience to confer an exotic frisson and distinguish them from all the other much-of-a-muchness grasping clubs of England, so long as this entails contributing absoluely zilch to the Welsh game.  The likes of Swansea would be condemned as traitors anywhere else, but here they’re hailed as heroes while the destitute Welsh pyramid clubs that actually represent Wales internationally are studiously ignored.  To describe the actions of Swansea as “good for Wales” is a grotesque perversion.  Note that there were no such outrageous claims about the manifold benefits to Shepherd’s Bush and East Anglia from the other two promoted clubs, QPR and Norwich City. For them the £80 million windfall is quite enough cause to celebrate – being located in the geographical fact called England they don’t have to defend the indefensible with red herrings and false alibis.  Unlike Jones and Gillan, Bernie Ecclestone and Delia Smith have no need to hyper-inflate the importance of the English Premier League so as to belittle the Welsh alternative.    And it’s not as if Swansea even pull their weight as Wales’ second city by nurturing Welsh players for the international side.  A miserable total of three Welsh-qualified players were part of their promotion squad, and only one of them (Joe Allen) is a Swansea product.  In fact you have to go back more than half a century to modern football’s pre-history to find the last world-class player Swansea produced for Wales (Cliff Jones, 1952).  As they construct a squad capable of surviving a season or two in the Premier League, you can be sure few, if any, Welshmen will figure in their plans and get useful top-level experience.  That £80 million will mostly be swallowed up by the slavering craws of thick, globe-trotting young millionaires to pay for their Lamborghinis and super-injunctions.

No, Jones and Gillan, you feeble-minded sycophants, no: Swansea’s promotion is BAD FOR WALES.   The bottom-line £80 million they will pocket, plus the obsessive attention that the Welsh media will give to their every tweaked hamstring, will render Wales’ own struggling pyramid even more invisible than usual and bring about a grotesque distortion found nowhere else on the planet whereby the all-time accumulated entire revenue of every single Welsh pyramid club (currently there are 930) will be less than one club’s income in one season.  These are not Swans; these are cuckoos in the nest.

But the cringeworthy Welsh establishment is unanimous, and you will not hear a word of dissent against the prevailing orthodoxy (except in this blog, natch).  Running against the tide of nearly a century of gradually increasing Welsh autonomy, the self-satisfied, unregulated, elitist blazerati of Welsh sport are the last bastion of old, colonial Wales. Their unceasing efforts pull in the opposite direction, towards erasing Wales as a practical entity by rendering the parts greater than the whole: only here could the bizarre perversion happen of Wales being a ‘minor county’ feeder for Glamorgan in cricket – try to get your head round England as Surrey’s second XI.  The Swansea board, rather like the Glamorgan board, the Sport Wales quango and the Media Wales and BBC Wales sports departments, is stuffed with archetypal provincial snobs, naffly apeing the ways of the presumed important from anywhere but their own patch.  Now they have ushered in a new deformity to humiliate Wales: Swansea City striving to represent England in Europe.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if the jack-offs qualified for the Europa League in 2012 and drew a real Welsh club – I wonder who Carwyn Jones and Cheryl Gillan would support then?