How the introduction of Welsh sides playing in the Irn Bru Cup as impacted the Welsh Premier League
After The New Saints’ penalty shootout win at home to Queen of the South at the weekend. The Welsh champions have set up a home semi-final against Scottish Championship side Dumbarton.
The success of the Welsh side has prompted a debate around the importance of the cup to Welsh Football on social media, with mixed reception to a new challenge to Welsh sides.
A major criticism from supporters and followers of the Welsh Premier League is a number of fixtures against the same clubs each season, with two teams potentially playing up to seven times during a season dependant on domestic cup and play-off draws.
The Irn-Bru Cup allows participating clubs to test themselves against high calibre opposition from Scotland, Northern and Republic of Ireland which is a welcome challenge to clubs and has provided some intriguing ties in the two seasons Welsh clubs have been included.
Wales’ top league isn’t considered the best supported by most, with the 2016/17 season league-wide average attendance just scraping above 300 at 306, there’s a concern the league is on a downward trend.
The Irn-Bru Cup has given clubs a chance to experience the weird and wonderful Scottish away fans who’ve travelled to games in Wales, and to witness the clubs’ full support on the trip north. In the three fixtures this season, The New Saints have amassed an average of 538 through the gate at Park Hall, compared to the 312 who’ve attended Welsh Premier League matches, which is a small revenue boost for clubs involved.
Eyes on the Prize
The Irn-Bru Cup can be an extra source of much-needed revenue for clubs involved with an extra set of prize money for a good run in the competition. The SPFL have already increased the pot from £308,000 in 2016/17 to £335,200 in 2017/18, with the winners netting an extra £17,750 to the bank account. A full breakdown of prize money for the competition is below.
- First Round losers: £3,500
- Second Round losers: £5,250
- Third Round losers: £5,500
- Fourth Round losers: £5,750
- Quarter-final losers: £8,250
- Semi-final losers: £10,250
- Runners-Up: £12,750
- Winners: £17,750
An extra £5,000 just for losing in the second round would be put to good use at any club, with the incentives for progression to the later rounds showing the Cup could be a difference maker for a top team aiming to take the next step.
The race at the top of the Welsh Premier League is a tight affair so far this season with the top three sides all separated by two points. TNS lost top spot in the table this weekend due to their Irn-Bru Cup Quarter Final tie while some fans attended their postponed fixture at Cefn Druids due to external website errors.
As the competition isn’t part of the Welsh domestic calendar, gaps in the Welsh Premier League fixture lists aren’t created to include the competition and league games get postponed as a result.
This inconveniences teams who are due to play a participating side, and adds an extra fixture for the club involved, which in a tight league, could disrupt a team fighting for a significant place as the game is rescheduled for a midweek.
(Featured Image: NCM Media)