The governing body of football in Wales has embraced a new ‘good governance’ strategy which they claimed was “…the start of an exciting journey… “, after The Eye showed how an announcer at one of the main clubs in the country proclaimed on Twitter that he ‘despises’ Tories but supports independence, and a Welsh soccer supporters’ band used the ‘C’ word yet denied it.
The news may also be connected to The Eye exclusively revealing that 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.
In launching its ‘good governance’ plan of action, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) declared: “The decisions of the Shareholders and Board is (sic) incredibly important as the governance changes that will now take place will be essential to the delivery of Our Wales – The FAW’s 2021-2026 Strategic Plan for Welsh Football”.
Noel Mooney, Chief Executive of the FAW proclaimed: “The FAW is at the start of an exciting journey that will see us become a thought leader in world football”.
Yet these fine sentiments (although use of the word ‘thought’ could be perplexing to some) may disguise the fact that the FAW appears to face an uphill task, after being engulfed in huge controversies in the past.
Recently the North Wales town of Wrexham was at the centre of an astonishing row. The FAW was founded in Wrexham in 1876, but last year 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.
Saroadh, 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.
Some Welsh football fans, as well as executives in the FAW, have often been mired in controversies, and The Eye have been alone in reporting them. Rhydian Bowen Phillips broadcasts at the stadium of Cardiff City FC, and has announced on social media “I despise Tories”, stressed that Wales should stand up to Westminster, as well as in one message just saying six times “Wales is a different country to England”.
Apart from being the announcer at one of the main football clubs in Wales, he also hosts a BBC Radio Cymru (BBC RC) programme on Saturdays from 11 am – 2 pm with the actress Shelley Rees, and is a Twitter friend of another presenter who has caused fierce arguments. The publicised views of Mr Phillips on social media appear to fly in the face of guidelines underlined recently by the Director General (DG) of the BBC Tim Davie.
He has also retweeted a comment that a Brexiteer was “A ruptured pustule on the anus of the country”. Mr Phillips has long made his controversial views known, and has, too, tweeted a picture of himself flashing the ‘V’ sign at a poster of Margaret Thatcher.
It comes amid more confirmation of his firm support for Welsh independence on social media, with him tweeting many times recently to back the controversial aim, which is supported only by a tiny minority of the population of Wales.
In one tweet, Mr Phillips highlighted in condemnation of neighbours who were putting out union flags, and he hashtagged the word ‘annibyniaeth’ (independence).
Meanwhile past remarks by the Welsh football supporters’ band The Barry Horns have also emphasised a need for the FAW’s new policy of ‘good governance’.
The Barry Horns have been banned by a social media company, denied calling a politician a “lying c…” (spelt in full) said “f… you” to Brexiteers, and declared about a UK cabinet minister “Go f… (spelt in full) yourself you Tory bastard“.
The Barry Horns have been described as “a foul mouthed bullying group of yobs” to The Eye, and said on Twitter that they didn’t use the “‘C’ bomb”, despite the facts. The ‘lying c***’ insult was hurled at politician Nigel Farage and the ‘Tory bastard’ comment was aimed at Jeremy Hunt.
The astonishing situation has even been the subject of our satirical writer Edwin Phillips.
The band were barred from Twitter following abuse like this, and after the ban was lifted they said 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 one-time PC (now Independent) MP Jonathan Edwards..
But one former Welsh football club director, was so incensed, he contacted the FAW and asked: “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?”.
They clearly support the party of Ms Wood (and Mr Edwards’ former one), because before the Twitter ban, they urged followers to “Join @Plaid Cymru”.
The Barry Horns are an eleven-piece brass band, made up of fans of the Welsh national football team, 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 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 YesCymru, 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 executives announced: “The Horns couldn’t wait to greet the train upon its arrival to Caerdydd. Next stop – 3 points!”.
In December of 2019 one angry sports journalist, who closely follows Welsh football, 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 these have not been the only challenging headlines to confront the FAW, and may now lie behind their new strategy.
Shock news emerged, that the taxpayer was to foot the bill with a far higher compensation order when hundreds of sub-postmasters were wrongly pursued through the courts by the Post Office in the biggest miscarriage of justice in British history, highlighting a recent bizarre controversy at the FAW.
The Post Office (PO), owned by the UK Government, has so far set aside £153 million to pay back 736 sub-postmasters who lost money but were entirely innocent.
However, compensation experts and lawyers working with victims have said that the final bill is likely to stretch well beyond £1 billion, and the PO believes it “does not have the financial resources for meaningful compensation”.
A key player in the wrongful legal pursuit by the PO was Angela van den Bogerd whose appointment as ‘Head of People’ at the FAW led to the abrupt departure of the organisation’s contentious chief. Jonathan Ford left after losing a vote of no-confidence among senior figures at the FAW following an extraordinary civil war inside the organisation which has never been fully explained by the mainstream media.
But, it seemed, that many Welsh football fans remained unhappy, despite this ‘clear-out’.
One Welsh football fan told us: “Getting rid of Jonathan Ford solves nothing. What about answering my request for details of extremist Welsh nationalist groups ‘tagging on’ to the Wales national football team on social media!”.
The leading Welsh sports journalist who supplies material for UK publications, said: “This is ridiculous. They sack Ford but still haven’t answered my questions about why an FAW stadium announcer backs The Barry Horns and has endorsed Welsh Football Fans for Independence”.
Major questions also remain about the disturbing events at the FAW, as it seems that Ms van den Bogerd may have been in Mr Ford’s camp, and her appointment was among “multiple” matters of grievance, according to one source.
Perhaps these grievances, like the issues highlighted by The Eye will be addressed by the FAW’s new ‘good governance’ strategy.
They claim it will be “…the start of an exciting journey… “, and it certainly will be!
Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his extraordinary 38-year award-winning career in journalism (including Welsh football stories) as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major new book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.