Focus

Management restructure, empty stadium, fewer fans – Welsh National team in crisis?

Shruti Kedia and Nicholas Li

Liberty Stadium hosts Wales-Austria match and caters to a small audience of 10, 000 fans with chaotic train timings.Courtesy Image: www.walesonline.co.uk

Liberty Stadium hosts Wales-Austria match and caters to a small audience of 10, 000 fans with chaotic train timings.
Courtesy Image: http://www.walesonline.co.uk

 

For Welsh football fans, every national team game brings more worry than excitement at the moment. It’s showing too with the national team today facing less sponsorship, playing in a smaller stadium and attracting fewer fans.

On February 6th, Wales beat Austria 2-1 in front of a half full, Liberty stadium, Swansea. Alice Smith, an ardent follower of Welsh National team, remained upset following the match, despite. “How we perform at the match no longer bothers Wales,” she said. “No one is there to support football, yet alone travel to Swansea to watch a match.

“It was no fun to watch the match. There was no cheer; there was no crowd to support the team. It didn’t feel like a victory night after the win as there was no one to celebrate with. I only wish that the match would not have been shifted to Swansea.”

The lack of support recently has caused a lot of concern within Welsh football. But the Welsh Football Association, however, maintain that this change in venue was made in the fans’ best interests. A spokesman for the WFA said, “We decided to change the location of the match as we want to give opportunities to everyone to watch the game. We will play in Cardiff again.”

Despite the low turnout the WFA remain confident they can still attract the fans blaming the low attendance on the busy football calendar. “Since, it was a friendly match, the attendance was low,” the spokesman said.

“We never have much audience for friendly matches anyways. Also, it is an expensive time of the year as everyone wants to buy the ticket in Wembley and for the Swansea-Liverpool football match. So, I don’t think that there is a lack of support, but just that February is not the time to attract many fans to the stadium.”

During Mark Hughes’ tenure as manager of Welsh national team, the team nearly qualified for UEFA Euro 2004 in Portugal. At that time, the team played in the national stadium of Wales, the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. The Welsh national football team claims that, “Nearly all the tickets were sold out (during that time). Thousands of Welsh fans came and supported their national team.”

At present the team does not enjoy the same enthusiastic support. Part of the reason for this could be the dramatic drop in performance since Chris Coleman took over the team in 2012.

Dion Evans, the creator the Facebook page; ‘Welsh national football team fans’ believes that is the main reason, “Since Chris Coleman took the team from Gary Speed, there is less and less support for the team,” he said but says many fans are happy with the change of venue. “They played at Swansea to share the games around Wales. The Millennium is a poor pitch the players hated it! And it was treated very badly by Stewards; it is a rugby stadium, not so good for football. Many of our fans prefer to go (to Swansea) but the only problem is traffic. We have contacted the stuff at Liberty Stadium last time but they didn’t give a clue of it.”

However, Mark Reid, a student of Sports Science in Cardiff University says, “It’s a shame that rugby games are so popular Cardiff and that the Welsh national team was left out of Millennium stadium. Rugby has taken priority. It’s difficult for us, football fans, to travel to Swansea every time there is a match. The train timings are not that flexible and the journey becomes very tiring.”

The Archer spoke to the WFA regarding the problems faced by football fans to attend matches, but they maintain travelling should not be a problem for them. The spokesman WFA said, “There’re always traffic problems even in Cardiff city. It is also hard for fans to get out of the city even after they leave Millennium stadium. It is the nature. There will be games in Swansea every two weeks so I don’t think it is the big issue.”

Despite the WFA’s laid back approach to the travel issue, it remains a real problem for fans to get home after matches. Those who went to Swansea earlier this month to see the team take on Austria had to deal with the last train from Swansea back to Cardiff left at 10:30pm despite the 8pm kick-off.

The spokesman added, “Train timings cannot be changed according to the game. Sometimes there can be unanticipated delays. The train is an affordable option for fans as if you look at the ticket price online, the tickets cost barely five pounds for kids and 20 pounds for adult. So, you can watch the whole season campaign for just 100 pounds.”

Reid however thinks that the change in location and the attitude of the Welsh Football association is a problem. He says, “The club needs to focus on many things to improve the team. They need more sponsors to gain capital; they need to adjust the ticket price to attract more fans. If things continue like this, football in Wales will soon come to an end.”

Tammy Evans, the manager of fusion lounge that screen matches on big screen says, “The demand for football is reducing tremendously. We always advertise and offer special meal and drinks deal on Rugby nights. We have a big screen preview for the match and it almost always house full. Sadly, football is not our priority. Once we did have a big screening of Welsh national team, we hardly got any customers.”

She adds, “Moreover, my customers only ask me put on a football game when teams like Liverpool or Manchester united are playing. I have not received many request for welsh national team matches”.

 

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