A new era for the domestic game begins this weekend as the Genero Adran Leagues kicks-off with a live televised match between champions Swansea City and Cardiff Met on Sgorio on Sunday, 5 September (4.15pm).
Following a major restructure and rebrand of the women's game in Wales, with one of the key elements of the rebrand being the decision to remove the reference to 'women' and create parity across all the FAW leagues. The new structure consists of the eight-team Adran Premier, with the regional second tier Adran North and Adran South both supported by the new Adran North U19 and Adran South U19 leagues.
Endorsing the new structure is national team manager Gemma Grainger, who this week emphasised her commitment to the domestic game. “It's so important,” explained Grainger. “The more that we can develop our domestic game the more progressive we can be and the more it will support all levels of the game. Accessibility and opportunity are the most important things in women's football, and for me as the national team manager, the stronger the domestic game is the more opportunities there will be for girls to play and it acts as a pathway to support the national team.”
Grainger's comments followed on from those of Lowri Roberts, head of women's football at the FAW, following the launch. “The new structure will create clearer pathways, improved provision and games programmes, and support for players allowing us to better nurture our footballing talent in Wales. This gives our players a stronger platform to achieve their potential. In turn, this will serve both the Welsh representative in the UEFA Women's Champions League and Cymru's ambitions to qualify for a major international tournament.”
Swansea City were the latest side to represent Wales in the UWCL last month, and made a positive impression by taking CSKA Moscow to extra-time before suffering a 4-1 defeat. “They are a full-time outfit so fitness was probably on their side,” said head coach Chris Llewellyn to the club's official website after the defeat. “But we went toe-to-toe with a very good side and we were unlucky to lose the game. We are trying to push boundaries and put things in place for the future, and performances like this should only make people stand up and take notice. Everybody in Wales should be proud.”
Although the UWCL campaign ended with a 2-0 defeat to Dinamo Minsk, qualification as domestic champions was achieved as Swansea City went through the entire campaign undefeated to edge themselves above rivals Cardiff Met by a single point before defeating Cardiff City in the League Cup final to claim a domestic double. In addition, the team conceded just one goal in their 16 league fixtures, and they will be keen to build on their latest European experience when they open the new campaign against perennial title rivals Cardiff Met on Sunday.
Meanwhile, it has also been a busy summer for Cardiff Met as Emily Allen returned to the club from Oxford United, while Courtney Butt and Alanna Torrington have also been added to the ranks from Buckland Athletic and Portishead Town respectively. Domestic champions on a record six occasions since the introduction of the national league, the Archers will be desperate to reclaim the title they last held in 2018/19. But while the clubs focus on silverware and success, there are much wider benefits to developing the domestic game in Wales.
“Although our senior national teams players may not necessarily stay and play in Wales what it does do is provide an unbelievable platform,” Grainger added. “Players will continue to come through the system and the more professional that we can make it the more that we can support our younger players and the better opportunities they're going to have. It's a really important part of what we do. It's my plan to make sure that all levels of the pathway are covered, and the work that I do with Lowri (Roberts) allows me to give my input into it, and that's really important for me.”