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FSA Cymru update: January 2022

Welcome to FSA Cymru’s January update from Paul Corkrey, who looks ahead to an exciting year that could see Wales at their first World Cup since 1958…

Happy new year to everyone, COVID-19 permitting we are all looking forward to an exciting 2022, possibly culminating in the World Cup finals in Qatar in November.

Depending on the continued financial support the Fans’ Embassy service will be operating this year and are also looking at the possibility of supporting fans at the women’s games.

To review a difficult year, we have to say it was a relatively successful and exciting one for the team and extremely difficult one for the Red Wall.

We must start with the Euros and the sad, but welcome sight of only a few hundred intrepid Welsh fans who managed to get to Baku, Italy, or Holland, despite the costs, distances and COVID-19 restrictions. They certainly made themselves seen and heard and had the satisfaction of seeing the team getting out of a difficult group stage.

On then to the Netherlands and Amsterdam, where the Welsh fans were met with the sight of over 25,000 Danish fans, who had different COVID-19 rules to the UK, but it still felt so unfair on our fans who were unable to travel.
The team started well but Denmark took control and won comfortably in the end, but the small section of the Red Wall that had made it into the stadium, kept singing right until the final whistle.

World cup Qualification 2020-22

When the draw was made it was apparent that the number one ranked team in the world, Belgium, would be favourites to qualify but Wales were confident they could get second and reach the play offs, we also had the benefit of winning our Nations League group so had a great chance anyway, but a home draw was the objective.

September 2021 finally gave “the Red Wall” the opportunity to travel again with two away games in quick succession – the Czech Republic and then Estonia. We were also able to run our Fans’ Embassy service again.

There were still obstacles of course and protocols to follow but 1,400 Welsh fans made it to Prague and well over 1,200 were present days later in the cold but picturesque city of Tallinn, Estonia.

An impressive performance in Prague ended in a disappointing draw in a game we deserved to win but we followed it up with a hard-fought victory a few days later in Estonia, four away points on the board made the arduous travel well worth it for the fans, who were simply glad to be there in all honesty.

Two massive home games against Belarus and Belgium in Cardiff and four points required again. A big crowd at the first game and a comfortable victory set us up for a memorable night in the capital. Once again, the team were magnificent and in front of a sell-out crowd qualified for the play-offs in March.

We know our opponents are Austria and if we win that game, we play the winners of Scotland vs Ukraine. The huge advantage is that we play at home for both these fixtures. We believe we will play two games in Cardiff anyway firstly against Austria on the 24th March and then another fixture five days later on the 29th March, hopefully the second game will be the final qualifying game for the World Cup and not a meaningless game.

Tickets are likely to go on sale for both fixtures in January but due to the Current COVID-19 rules, the ticket sales could be delayed until February, hopefully fans will be allowed into stadiums and if that is the case these will sell out for sure.

The 2022 Nations League

The Nations League draw took place on the 16th of December at the UEFA headquarters in Neon, Switzerland. Wales were in Group A with all the biggest teams in Europe and fans were hoping for a big and glamorous group of teams.
Unfortunately it did not turn out that way, but on the flip side we are in a group with winnable games and countries easily accessible to fans, again depending on COVID-19.
Our opponents are Belgium, Poland and Holland.

What are the dates?

  • June 3rd Poland away
  • June 6th Netherlands home
  • June 10th Belgium home
  • June 13th Netherlands away
  • September 22nd Belgium away
  • September 25th Poland home

Qatar

If we qualify for Qatar, it will be a journey into the unknown for many of the Red Wall and it will be our first taste of World cup finals since 1958. I was fortunate to be part of a Football Supporters Europe (FSE) delegation that visited Qatar and saw four matches played there at different stadiums.

We travelled there to observe the Arab Cup, the stewarding, transport, security at entry gates, and the stadiums. We also reported back our findings to the supreme committee that organises the tournament and FIFA staff.

It was a real eye opener and no doubt will be an adventure many Welsh fans will endeavour to be a part of.

It will not be cheap or easy for our fans – it definitely will be different and there is still a lot of work required by the Qatar organisers. The stadiums are magnificent but accommodation, policing, stewarding and transport must be their top priorities in the months leading up to the tournament.

January Meeting with FAW CEO Noel Mooney

On Friday January 7th, we had a meeting with several representatives from the FAW including the new CEO Noel Mooney, who thanked everyone for attending and explained the strategy, goals and aims for the FAW
for the future. It really was a very interesting and informative vision which we can all play in it.

Some of the points of discussion were:

  • A new high performance strategy group within the FAW looking at all aspects of the game as laid out in the recent documentation for the six strategic pillars of the FAW has now been setup
  • A first ever technical group to help the FAW move forward and become stronger both on and off the field. This group will contain ex-players and managers along with several others
  • Huge investment into Grassroots football over the next ten years, already applied for grants from Welsh Government, National Lottery, UEFA, and FIFA to help Wales catch up with many other nations. Noel does not want to see matches cancelled due to no changing rooms for women and men, as well as pitches not fit for purpose
  • FAW to become more involved with FAW Trust
  • Equality, diversity and inclusiveness must be paramount at all clubs in Wales, not just the professional clubs.
  • International men’s games will be played in the first instance at Cardiff City Stadium. Only if CCS is unavailable then alternatives will be looked at
  • Restructure of the FAW shortly
  • FAW to become more commercially viable, lack of using senior players for marketing, some of the players very keen for this to happen
  • The replica kits must be available for both men and women, and marketed and priced accordingly. A new women’s kit was announced for the France game
  • FAW will improve engagement with fans. Noel talked about going out on the road to venues throughout Wales to meet with fans. FSA Cymru said they were happy to change from quarterly meetings to monthly if required, we also hope to start meeting in person soon and taking the meetings to venues outside of Cardiff, other fan groups, Wal-y-Goch, Rainbow Wall will be invited to these meetings, as well as any interested Red Wall members.
  • Improving matchday experience for fans
  • Ticket prices, a topical agenda item with lots of the meeting commenting on pricing. It was unanimously agreed that communication must be clear about any increase in ticket prices for the forthcoming games. The increase in ticket prices along with other measures would allow the additional money to go directly into grassroots development, improving the game for the future. Full details will be communicated by FAW in due course
  • There were many comments on the communication and Tiny Media and other communication outlets were mentioned to be used.
  • Equality, diversity and Inclusion is currently being promoted via Jason Webber FAW Equality Officer, PAWB Events (Everyone) workshops are running throughout the year
  • Nations League Tickets – many mentioned the possibility of a tournament ticket to make it more cost effective for fans, FAW will look at this
  • Transport – FAW have recently met with some representatives from transport and discussed roadworks and traffic issues at the recent matches. Plans are being made for a follow-up meeting with representatives from rail transport in attendance, where a discussion will be held around adequate provision of rail services on matchdays.
  • Away games – Wonky Sheep said flights were awkward with the current pandemic, however they have flights sorted for all the Nations League games
  • Women’s games: With Slovenia, France, and Kazakhstan games ahead it is looking very good for the game and crowds are increasing at each game. FSA Cymru announced that they are looking at a new FSA Cymru Women’s Game Fans’ Embassy, Kieran Jones setting this up.

Our next FAW-FSA Cymru Meeting will probably take place on Thursday January 27th where we will go into more detail about tickets, memberships, policing, transport and upcoming games.

Please get in touch if you want to ask any questions, add anything to the agenda or attend as a guest, we welcome more voices to these meetings. Contact Paul Corkrey via email: [email protected]

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