Friday, April 25, 2008

Cardiff to represent England

Well, well, well. In the news today:

An FA statement said:

The board has given full approval for Cardiff City to participate in next season’s Uefa Cup as one of England’s representatives, should they win this season’s FA Cup. It was also decided that the Welsh national anthem would also be played ahead of the game.”

This is a turnaround that has surprised me greatly. Firstly the news that Cardiff will represent the English FA. This has enormous implications.

By following this route to Europe, Cardiff have effectively ruled out any return to European Competition via the Welsh Cup. Instead of using this opportunity to leverage their claim for UEFA Cup football via participation in the Welsh Cup, they have gone down the English route.

Now that's bad planning by any measure. It could well be another 80 years before they get this close to Europe in the English system, but Welsh Cup victories would probably come along ever other year. So instead of potentially playing European football regularly over the next decade, they will probably have just this one shot. Amazingly short-sighted.

On the other hand, has the FA's decision guaranteed the club's future in the English system? It looks like it. It seems that UEFA and the FA are officially recognising Cardiff's unique position as a Welsh club within the English system. There will be no imminent threat of political manouvering and Cardiff won't be forced to play under the Welsh FA's pyramid. Now that's good news for the club. It also means that any concerns about claiming future promotion to the English premiership have gone.

I am astounded that the Welsh anthem will be played. That is a magnificent coup for Wales. Wales' status as an independent nation is being recognised on the World stage. Even though we have no political independence the FA are tipping their hat to our cultural claims. I can't think of any precedent for that. Teams from the Basque Country, Brittany and Catalunya will be preparing requests for their own anthems at Cup Finals across Europe. It's that big.

Of course pragmatically, the FA are just trying to keep the peace. They will remember the serious crowd trouble that occured after God Save the Queen was played at Wembley before the Swansea v Northampton play-off in 1997. The thinking will be that if we get the Welsh National Anthem, then we will be less inclined to boo God Save the Queen, thus avoiding an awkward and potentially explosive situation. It will certainly help, though I think the FA may be over-estimating the evaluating skills of the average meathead.

Either way, we will get to sing Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau at Wembley. Let's all learn the words, through off our scowls and posturing and self-consciousness, and let's bloody outsing the English. Pleease try to sing a bit more than the "Gwlad, gwlad" in the middle. And for God sake, don't let Tom Jones anywhere near it.

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