News that the controversial head of football’s governing body in Wales may be on the verge of being sacked, puts centre stage past controversies about him and the sport, which have been revealed by The Eye.
Jonathan Ford was the subject of a vote of no confidence passed by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) council on Monday.
It is understood he has been placed on gardening leave with meetings taking place which could lead to his departure.
A number of issues are behind discontent with Mr Ford, with the direction of the association among what one source has described as “multiple” matters of grievance.
But earlier grievances about Mr Ford’s behaviour, along with those concerning his organisation, were reported by our journalists many months ago.
On June 30 we showed how the former director of one club in Wales called on him to resign, after he and other angry Welsh football fans received no substantive response from the FAW about “extremist Welsh nationalist groups ‘tagging on’ to the Wales national football team on social media”, and that he had been told about a controversial supporters’ brass band, which denied calling a politician a “lying cunt” online even though The Eye found the evidence.
On May 27 of the previous year the fan had followed up his earlier demand for action from the FAW by telling them: “I have continued to experience harassment from certain groups… Can you please respond to the concerns?”.
In documents we have seen, a reply from the FAW was simply: “I have not discussed fully with Jonathan Ford. When I returned from holiday he went away on his…I have followed up on the issues raised but need to talk to Jonathan first.”
Yet this is not the first time that Mr Ford or his organisation have hit the headlines.
In a BBC Sport Wales interview Mr Ford had said: “We have always favoured Welsh people because arguably the passion is there.
“Somebody said this earlier, Welsh most definitely, foreign possibly but definitely not English.”
In December of 2019 the angry football fan also outlined to the FAW a series of problematic issues: “The Barry Horns have had their official Twitter account shut down for foul and abusive behaviour, and repeated violations of Twitter’s terms and conditions. They then set up another account, which was shut down within a week.
- A group calling itself ‘Welsh Football Fans for Independence’ held a march from Womanby St to the Cardiff City Stadium before the last home game. They were setting off flares and singing foul-mouthed chants about the Union Flag (Union Jack).
- Large stickers have appeared on lamp posts, post boxes etc around South Wales (and possibly North Wales) from ‘Welsh Football Fans for Independence’. The stickers contain the FAW emblem (albeit the old one).
- The FAW’s stadium announcer, Rhydian Bowen Phillips, has publicly called for the reinstatement of The Barry Horns on Twitter and has endorsed Welsh Football Fans for Independence.
- There were banners endorsing Welsh independence at the stadium during the most recent Wales home international.”
But the FAW have been at the centre of a storm of controversies before, and earlier issues have included further accusations that officials have failed to do anything about extremist ‘supporter’ groups and The Barry Horns.
Another outraged fan has also asked in the past: “I would like to know what the FAW position is on the Barry Horns who having affiliated themselves to South Wales football now appear to have adopted an aggressive political agenda.
“Some of their language on Twitter is worse than I have ever endured on football terraces. Is this the sort of agenda the FAW condone?”, and action was demanded from the FAW.
Neither, though, have received a reply.
The ‘Tory bastard’ comment was hurled by The Barry Horns on Twitter at the then UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The band were barred from the social media outlet following remarks like this, and after the ban was lifted said that they were “beautiful”, yet serious questions have been raised about this contentious decision.
The former leader of Plaid Cymru (PC) Leanne Wood spoke out against the restriction at the time, saying on Twitter: “… you ban the Barry Horns? For defending the NHS?”, this was then re-tweeted by then PC (now independent) MP Jonathan Edwards.
They clearly support Ms Wood’s (and Mr Edwards’ former) party because before the Twitter ban, they exhorted followers to “Join @Plaid Cymru”.
The Barry Horns are an eleven-piece brass band, created in 2011 by BBC Wales promos director ‘Fez’ Watkins. Their first public appearance was outside the Wales v England World Cup qualifying match in Cardiff on 26 March 2011. They also appeared at the Welsh Cup Final in the same year, which was broadcast on television.
In March 2017, they were banned, too, from the Republic of Ireland v Wales World Cup 2018 qualifying match in Dublin. In September of the same year, they gave a headline performance at the first Welsh Independence music festival in association with Yes Cymru, held at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff.
That month The Barry Horns also gave football fans from North Wales a surprise welcome to Cardiff with a performance at Cardiff Central Station ahead of Wales’ match against Austria at the Cardiff City Stadium. At the time they declared: “The Horns couldn’t wait to greet the train upon its arrival to Caerdydd. Next stop – 3 points!”.
Arriva Trains Wales stated: “The atmosphere on board was amazing with everyone in great spirits all the way down and for The Barry Horns to be welcoming the train and fans into Cardiff was the icing on the cake”.
A Welsh TV company said: “The Barry Horns know how to get a party started, even on a station platform”.
The controversial broadcaster BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) has also found itself brought into the growing row.
BBC Radio Cymru (BBC RC) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) were due to stage the ‘Red Wall’ with The Barry Horns at Pontio in Bangor, although the venue was closed due to coronavirus/Covid-19.
The event was to mark “the amazing journey supporting our national football team through Euro 2020”, with the controversial band as ‘guest’ performers, and officials claimed it was “Suitable for all ages”.
Football in Wales under Mr Ford’s stewardship, has often hit the headlines, and recently the North Wales town of Wrexham was at the centre of an extraordinary row. The FAW was founded in Wrexham, and earlier The Eye exclusively revealed how the violence of some supporters of Wrexham AFC in Manchester, was celebrated by a dissident republican group linked to a militant organisation allegedly behind the killing of a journalist.
An alarming post on Twitter from ‘Saroadh PR’ said that some fans of the Welsh football club “beat the absolute shit out of Tomy (sic) Robinson (former English Defence League [EDL] leader) far right fascists” and backed the message with a picture of men in balaclavas holding guns aloft. The tweet outlined a series of mundane actions which included waking up early and taking a train to Manchester before the violence. It then proclaimed: “All in a days work for the Welsh lads” – 197 accounts retweeted the message and more than 1,200 accounts liked it.
Saoradh, liberation in Irish, is a grouping which has the support of dissident republican organisation the New IRA, which was blamed for shooting journalist Lyra McKee.
Mr Ford was appointed as FAW chief executive in 2009, with a marketing background. He has been widely credited with lifting the FAW’s profile and increasing turnover. During his tenure, Wales has staged its first UEFA competition, the European Women’s Under-19s tournament in 2013, and hosted the Super Cup final in 2014.
But what is happening now will be less of an achievement to celebrate for the FAW, if the man in charge is on the verge of being fired for “multiple” matters of grievance…
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