Alun Cairns MP for the Vale of Glamorgan has written to First Minister Mark Drakeford stating that he is “disappointed and frustrated” that none of the recently-announced events open to spectators will be taking place in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The MP joins a growing number of people frustrated by the choice of events that have been picked for the trials to reopen sporting and cultural activities to spectators, with many wondering why fixtures featuring Welsh football teams playing in the English leagues, such as Swansea City and Newport County, have been included in the plans, but none of the upcoming fixtures in the JD Cymru Premier, Wales’ top football division have made the grade.
In his open letter to the Leader of the Senedd, Cairns stated that, although these trials should be “recognised as a positive step”, it is important that they “must offer something to communities across Wales, including the Vale of Glamorgan.” Addressing the Welsh Government’s plans, the MP continued:
“Football is the most popular sporting activity in Wales and there are currently no Welsh football teams playing in a Welsh league included in your proposals. Only Welsh football teams that play in English leagues are included.”
In his statement, Cairns went on to highlight the Vale of Glamorgan’s JD Cymru Premier team, Barry Town United, who have long been calling for a return of fans for their games:
“Barry Town United for example has worked hard to adhere to social distancing rules and ultimately feel that they’ve been ignored. Allowing smaller scale events to be hosted would also provide good feedback going forward to similar-sized outdoor venues across Wales. They would also offer a key financial lifeline after the most difficult of periods.”
Barry Town United’s Supporter Liaison Officer, Ian Johnson spoke to Bro Radio’s The Vale This Week about his disappointment at the announcement and the omission of Barry Town United and the JD Cymru Premier as a whole in these plans:
“I think we’re disappointed at the announcement from the Welsh Government and there’s two reasons for that. One of those is on a sporting basis, so we’re talking about next week, the play-offs will be taking place and Swansea City will be able to have fans in their ground and Newport can have fans in their ground as well, whilst, at the same time, the Cymru Premier European play-off games will be taking place, you know, they’re actually on the same day as Swansea, and yet Penybont and Barry, who will be probably the two clubs that have home advantage, won’t be allowed to have fans in their ground, even though they would be in smaller numbers that would be easily organised and can be easily managed.
“The second point is in the wider context of where society is at, in terms of how we recover from Covid and how we have people in society doing things. It’s a sunny day next Saturday, you might have ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty thousand people milling about on Barry Island and mingling, but you are not able to have 400 people, which would be 20% of the ground capacity of Jenner Park, even though that’s something we could very easily organise, we’d have the contact details for everybody who would be in that ground and we have made preparations for being able to open up since the start of the season, back in September last year.
“You also have the further, quite odd scenario where, if we have indoor hospitality opening up next week, then we’re in the situation where people can sit in the clubhouse at Jenner Park, indoors, watch the game on TV, but you can’t watch the game outside, 20 metres away, and that seems like a bit of a common-sense check, and I think that’s really why we’re hoping that the Welsh Government will reconsider that decision next week.”
The club has also been particularly active on social media, tweeting in response to the announcement from the Welsh Government:
“Our supporters have been volunteers and ensured games have run safely during this pandemic yet the @CymruLeagues have not been considered as a test event. Another kick in the teeth for Welsh football clubs.”
Additionally, Barry Town United FC manager Gavin Chesterfield has added for calls for Jenner Park to host a trial event. Chesterfield stated:
“It is a kick in the teeth for Barry Town United FC and all those involved in the Cymru Premier League. Like others across the league, our hard-working volunteers and supporters have not watched a live game in a long time. Allowing supporters to attend, would be a huge boost and provide a small thank you to all.
“I’m hoping that common sense prevails and that supporters of all clubs involved are allowed to attend the play-off semi-finals (22nd/23rd May) and Final (29th May).”