When the full-time whistle blew at Wembley on Sunday afternoon and Cardiff City booked their place in an FA Cup final for the first time in 81 years there was a ray of sunshine over South Wales, but a black cloud hanging over Soho Square.
The prospect of Dave Jones’ mid-table Championship side winning the greatest cup competition in the world on May 17 has thrown up a major quandary for the powers that be on both sides of the border. The English FA Cup winners are guaranteed a place in the following season’s UEFA Cup and that is where the crux of the problem lies. Cardiff are Welsh!
With Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool dominating the competition year in — year out for the past decade or so this has never really become an issue until now. The English FA have already stated they will not hand over a UEFA Cup place to the Bluebirds as their ‘guest’ side for next season, while UEFA have moved to pacify the matter by saying they will be hand the club wildcard entry into European football.
This move has upset the Welsh FA whose secretary Alun Evans says will achieve ‘a short-term gain for a long-term loss’. Evans wants Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham to start fielding second-string teams in the Welsh Premier League to try and qualify for Europe in that way instead of using an English route which he feels will damage their efforts to help Welsh clubs qualify through Welsh leagues and competitions.
This seems the most viable option, but you could argue that would be disrespectful to the remaining clubs in the Welsh Premier League if Cardiff and Swansea are using it to give their reserves a run out every week?
However the onus surely must lie with the English FA to sort out this minefield? They have been happy for Cardiff to ply their trade in the Football League and compete for English silverware for most of the club’s existence — waiving their right to qualify for Europe through their own country’s competitions as a result. Therefore if they have the gall to win one of these competitions then surely they deserve the right to reap the rewards?
True Cardiff have the small matter of Portsmouth to see off first, but if they do then a place in the UEFA Cup is fully deserved.
What do you think – should the English FA give Cardiff a Uefa Cup place if the win at Wembley?