A MAJOR restructure of women’s football in Wales with the introduction of second tier leagues in the north and south.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) confirmed the new pyramid structure includes eight teams in Tier 1, new Tier 2 North and South leagues featuring eight teams, as well as new under-19s regional leagues.

37 clubs signed up to the process with 33 progressing to Phase 2, 13 at Tier 1 and 20 at Tier 2, meaning that the competition for the 24 available places was extremely high.

Llandudno FC will star in the Tier 2 North league alongside clubs including Connah’s Quay Nomads, Airbus UK Broughton, Wrexham and Denbigh Town.

Colwyn Bay FC’s women’s side has unfortunately missed out on the Tier 2 North league this season.

Tier 1 teams include The New Saints, Cardiff City, Aberystwyth Town, Barry Town United and Swansea City.

Among those in Tier 2 South are Abergavenny, Cardiff Bluebelles, Merthyr Town and Swansea University.

Lowri Roberts, FAW’s Head of Women’s Football, said: “It’s been inspiring to see the level of work clubs have put into their application. We’ve seen a real shift in mindset from the clubs in how they are developing elite environments for players and how they are building for a sustainable future.

“Through implementing an open application process for entry into the new leagues, a club’s place was not solely down to sporting merit but also robust club structures. It has made clubs review their entire structure, playing pathways and the provision they provide players. As a result, all clubs will be collectively striving to continuously improve standards in a competitive environment.”

The restructure was implemented following a full review of the pyramid in 2020, which included consultation with clubs, players, leagues and officials at all levels. It highlighted key changes required in the top two tiers of the pyramid whilst also addressing the significant gap between under-16s and senior football.

To determine which clubs would take their place in these new leagues, the FAW oversaw an open application process that involved two stages. The first was the initial licence award where clubs provided evidence to show that they met the minimum criteria for each level.

Successful Clubs progressed to Phase 2, presenting their club development plan to a panel of FAW, FAW Trust and FIFA experts who assessed clubs across seven key areas; three of these were ‘core’, awarding double marks for Sporting (factoring in previous performance in the League), Financial Sustainability and Human Resources.

Andrew Howard, FAW head of competitions, said: “Throughout this process we have seen clubs securing significant investment into their women’s programmes and strong commitments in terms of resources being made available within the clubs, from appointing full time staff to long term partnership agreements. Clubs should be very proud of what they have achieved off the field over the last year and we look forward to this exciting new chapter for women’s domestic football in Wales.”

In August, ahead of the 2021/22 season, the FAW will unveil a new visual identity and name for the top two tiers and the U19s leagues, signalling the new era of domestic women’s football in Wales.