Vicky Randall/ Cwmbran Celtic

Caerphilly Castle recently hit the headlines for a 43-0 defeat (and have since withdrawn from the Welsh Premier League). Those players who left the club for Cwmbran Celtic explain why they felt they had to walkout on Caerphilly.

We saw in the news that Caerphilly Castle go down to a heavy defeat again this season, not for the first time this has happened. The recent article on the bbc website highlights the reasons behind it and again lays blame on the now Cwmbran Celtic players.

So let’s fill you in on our ‘mass walkout’…

Four years ago, Caerphilly Ladies were unknown playing in the South Wales league as a mediocre side, then in came a lot of new players and ex-Welsh international Claire O’Sullivan and the team started to take shape.

With a structured pre-season, players of a good standard coming in, including more Welsh internationals, we built a team with a desire to achieve and players who wanted to better themselves as individuals and as a team. The future looked bright.

Caerphilly went from a team with mismatched kit to a side who prided themselves on appearance. With extensive fundraising from all the players and finding themselves a team sponsor, the ladies set about improving their image. Now with new home and away kits, tracksuits, warm up kit and qualified coaches, the players could let their football do the talking.

The ladies did all this themselves, with little or no sign of the club officials. However, as we improved and started beating the so-called big teams, the club started paying attention. Welsh Cup Final day meant income to the club but it was a battle for the ladies to get any of their hard-earned cup money to support them for the next season.

The ladies team took Caerphilly to where they dreamed of going and competed in the prestigious Welsh Premier League, however, the team had to fend for themselves quite often, with long away journeys it was a difficult task and with a small team of workers in coach O’Sullivan, team manager Zoe Brace and captain Vicki Randall, they managed their own squad. With the club management making the running of the team extremely difficult through a lack of communication and organisation, it was left down to the ladies themselves to ensure they had match officials, kits, transports, fixtures arranged, fundraising and training facilities on a regular basis. Once again, come cup final the club officials appeared!

The ladies team finished a respectable mid-table with a League Cup Final win to show for their hard work. The whole season was made challenging by the lack of support and encouragement for those involved. Yes, U-16s should have been promoted into the squad but the club and several committee members where against sending them to such a group of players, so I ask myself the question, do they only have themselves to blame?

Within our second Welsh Prem season, on numerous occasions we asked for financial help with the travelling, or new kit that was needed, with money that we had earned in the cup! Our coach was put through her B licence which had to be paid for by herself, until many months later the club was persuaded to help. The ladies took it upon themselves to pay their coach for her effort and commitment as the club refused. We weren’t talking a million pounds, just a gesture to show appreciation of the girls.

On numerous occasions, players travelling over an hour to trainng were turning up to find the club had not booked the facilities. Communications and organisation were going from bad to worse! Meetings with management were being requested by the ladies with the club not fulfilling them. For two years we had to move grounds to accommodate Welsh Prem rules and for two years the players were promised the new pitch that Caerphilly were building.

Promises amounted to nothing, yet again, and it was too much for the ladies who just wanted a bit of support, wanted a youth setup to feed players through and most of all, wanted club leadership without the pressure on the players, who at the end of the day just wanted to play. So yes, unfortunately, the whole team made the move. The club were warned we would walk away on a number of occasions but didn’t believe it would really happen. 

A very supportive offer was made from Cwmbran Celtic who wanted to accommodate a women’s team. We had to start from scratch in league terms but 6 months down the line, what a difference! With a Welsh Prem standard pitch, club house, support week in, week out, from all other teams and club officials, along with a strong youth set up coming through, the move was an easy decision. The club cannot believe how much we had to do for ourselves and with the support of Cwmbran, the season is already a great success.

Caerphilly can blame the mass player walkout for as long as they like but they had all summer to go on a player recruitment drive – which should have been happening all along – as well as work on player development. On more than one occasion we offered them summer recuitment days, run by our players, which they declined and just didn’t want to organise. We hope they identify the situation they are in and choose to drop from the Welsh Prem next season, to allow the youngsters to compete at a level appropriate for them, before we lose them from football altogether.

Our message to any club is appreciate what you have. Caerphilly did not appreciate the endless hard work from the ladies, whether it be during the season or in pre-season tournaments, where they officiated and endlessly helped with organisation. Teams should be supported through the highs and lows, not just on cup final day. Teamwork and communication are the key to running any successful side.  

SHE KICKS – the online community for women’s football

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