Wales Touch Association announce that the inaugural National Championships will be held in April 2013. Six regions are to be formed and will compete in Mens, Womens and Mixed open categories. The West Wales squad will be made up of players residing in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.
So why is this announcement so important for the development of Touch in Wales?
It’s A Numbers Game
In Wales in 2012, there were less than 3,000 men and women playing Touch (WTA figures). The overwhelming majority of Touch is played in Cardiff and therefore the national teams are little more than Cardiff regional teams, peppered with a handful of players from Swansea, Wrexham, Llanelli and some of the main English cities.
Compare this to England where there are already national club competitions (National Touch Series and Challenge Touch Series) as well as an inter-regional competition in which regional franchises compete. The best regional players are then chosen to represent at national level. There are more Touch players in England (approximately 5,500 according to ETA) and with the regional structure, it is little wonder that they are the current European Champions.
Considering the low number of participants, Wales has been punching above it’s weight at international level for some time, even winning the 2010 European Championships. However, the current model is not sustainable and Wales badly needs to encourage more people to play the game or it is in danger of being left behind.
Spreading the Word
Although Touch was introduced to Cardiff in 1991 by Dave Swain and Paul Nepia, as recently as 2011 the only places you could play regular competitive Touch outside of Cardiff were Llanelli, Pontyclun, Swansea and Wrexham. However, this is set to change with the 2012 partnership agreement between the WTA and Welsh Rugby Union which has seen Touch being introduced to new territories via the WRU’s 14 Participation Officers (PO). Part of the PO remit is to run Touch leagues for adults and this has resulted in leagues starting out in Bridgend, Newport and Neath amongst others. It won’t be long before some of these players are filtered through to regional teams and then national teams. Since the formation of the Llanelli league in 2010, it has already produced two players that have played in the Touch World Cup and Touch European Championships.
In order for Touch to grow and flourish in Wales it is essential that the game is played in all areas of the country. Obviously, Wales is a small country with a small population and we are not quite ready to target reaching the 500,000 registered members as Touch Football Australia is planning in their latest strategic plan. The National Championships is a huge step in the right direction. Coaching positions have been advertised for each of the six regions and it is hoped that there will be a men’s, women’s and mixed open team for each region. The biggest challenge is that there will have to be active recruitment of players in regions that have little or no history of Touch being played competitively. However, this is precisely why the championships are so important. Once social league players realise that they could play at regional or even international level, the profile and status attached to the game will undoubtedly rise. It stands to reason that the more people playing the game, the better standards will become, resulting in more competition for places in national teams.
The west Wales region encompasses Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire and it is fair to say that the men’s open team will be made up almost entirely of Llanelli based players considering that is still the only active league in the region.
Finding women to make up the women’s and mixed west Wales regional team could prove to be difficult since there was no Llanelli mixed or women’s league in 2012. However, attendance at the recent Wales national trials was extremely encouraging with a large female contigent. Even more encouragingly, a number of them were selected for the Welsh prelim squads for the 2013 Home Nations Tournament in Dublin. It just goes to show that there is great talent across the country, it’s just a matter of getting the structure right in order to develop it further.
The new regions will compete over the weekend of the 6th and 7th April (location will be announced soon). Players are eligible to participate if they live in Wales or are otherwise eligible to represent Wales, and must be WTA members. All current national squad members are to participate.
Regional qualification is primarily determined by residential address. For players not living in Wales, qualification is determined by birthplace.
Interested players and referees should complete the registration form and return it to email@example.com.
Download – WTA Nationals Registration Form
The regions are as follows:
|Regional Team Name
||Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot & Swansea
|Cardiff South & The Vale
||South Cardiff & Vale of Glamorgan
|Cardiff North & The Valleys
||Merthyr Tydfil, North Cardiff*, Powys (part – up to Welshpool) & RCT
||Caerphilly, Newport, Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent
||Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Powys (Part – down to Welshpool), Wrexham
||Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion
*The A48 will act as the boundary in Cardiff