Border football clubs

By Tommie Collins

Throughout the game a number of football clubs play in countries different to that of their origin. Reasons vary from geographical reasons, logistical and sometimes even disputes between countries.

Derry City, founded in 1928, played in the Northern Ireland league until 1972, when it was expelled due to issues related to the ‘The Troubles’. They were eventually admitted to the League of Ireland in 1985, where they have continued to play since. Due to the crisis between Ukraine and Russia over The Crimea, three clubs, FC SKChF Sevastopol, FC TSK Simferopol and FC Zhemchuzhina Yalta have been given dispensation to play in the Russian League since January 2015, the region is considered a “special zone” for football purposes until further notice.

In Wales, you have Swansea City, Colwyn Bay, Cardiff City, Newport County, Merthyr Tydfil and Wrexham, all of which play over the border in the English pyramid structure. Whilst you also have The New Saints who play in the Welsh Premier League, despite their headquarters being situated over the border in Oswestry.

There are also another three clubs from England that play in Wales; Bishops Castle, Trefonen and Newcastle, Shropshire. Here we delve into their backgrounds and look a little close at their peculiar circumstances.

Trefonen

“We re-established the club in 1981/82, and we played in the Sunday League in England for 15 years,” Club Chairman, Howard Martin, told Football Foyer.

“At the time many teams played on a Sunday. They were leagues of real standard. But things were changing, the committee was getting older and the club came to an end in 1996 because of a lack of interest by other parties.”

In 2008 however, locals decided to restart the club afresh, and with Sunday League football having run its course, they submitted a request to join the Montgomeryshire League.

Howard explained: “This made sense as we had a number of contacts over the border in Wales, and the Shrewsbury League itself was attempting to create a new league with higher standard teams compared to ourselves. This would have seen us travel to Telford, Ludlow and Clee Hill, and the league was pretty keen for us to join the new venture.”

The club had two options, either risk joining the new Shrewsbury venture or rejoin the Montgomeryshire League. Common sense prevailed the team opted for the latter.

Howard continued: “Our status as a football club was stabilised by the Football Association of Wales. With regards to ambition, it’s a real shame we can’t get promoted, but winning the league would still be a great moment in the club’s history. We love playing in the league and we have great connections with clubs such as Llangedwyn.”

Despite locals coming together to reform the club, they’re still finding it hard to get a decent attendance in to support.

Howard finished: “The locals don’t seem to have any sort of interest in the club, with an average attendance of 15. Yet, back in the Sunday League days, we averaged the 100 mark. Nevertheless, at the end of the day football is all about enjoyment and we’re certainly doing that.”

Bishops Castle

This is a club that sits only a mile within the English border, and according to Club Secretary, Lee Davies, playing within the Wales pyramid is a matter of common sense.

“Despite playing in England for a period, historically, we’ve played the majority of our football in Wales,” Lee Davies told Football Foyer.

“We returned to Wales two seasons back, given the majority of the league’s teams were situated in and around Telford. Therefore, it was daft for us to travel as far to play football for pleasure alone. It’s worth bearing in mind that we only left Wales for England in the first instance because we were rejected entry into the new Mid Wales Second Division.”

Despite being happy with their place back within the Wales setup, they do possess ambition to reach the higher divisions in the future. However, promotion is a no-go for the foreseeable future.

Lee explained: “When we rejoined the Welsh league, we signed an agreement that we would only be allowed to play at a leisurely level. We’d love to play at a higher level one day; the Mid Wales League if possible.”

Issues currently exist within the Mid Wales Division Two. Only 13 teams currently play in the league, despite it being meant to hold 16. The club were optimistic of promotion last summer and submitted a request. This, however, was turned down.

With the club literally on the border with Wales, a number of children from Wales attend the area’s secondary school.

Lee continued: “Pupils from Knighton, Montgomery and Churchstoke travel to the area each day, and this creates a real Welsh influence within the local community. In training, we’d normally play five-a-side between the Welsh and English contingencies. These are competitive but very light-hearted.”

FAW reaction

When asked to comment, Andrew Howard, FAW Head of Competitions, told Football Foyer:

“Bishops Castle, Trefonen and Newcastle have permission to play in Wales at a recreational level. This is because of geographical reasons, as the costs of travelling to participate in the Telford area league would be prove too expensive. However, they can’t achieve promotion and the English FA agrees. If the clubs show an ambition to gain promotion they’ll have to rejoin the English pyramid. At the end of the day, these clubs want to play football. This agreement suits everyone.”

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