The Welsh Premier League was born out of political necessity in 1992. Welsh football had lost a (British) championship and not yet found a role. This situation was being exploited in FIFA circles by African and Asian nations who resented the independent status of the four British associations, and who saw the participation of the senior Welsh clubs in English football as a contradiction of that status. The problems set by local geography and the economy, together with the presence of its powerful English neighbour, had prevented Wales forming its own national championship until the F.A. of Wales took the initiative twelve years ago and founded the League of Wales.
The twenty original members were drawn on a roughly equal basis from all parts of the country, and from the Welsh League and Cymru Alliance League in particular, Bangor and Newtown joining from the Northern Premier League. The inaugural season's champions were Cwmbran Town, who thus became the first Welsh club to play in the European Champions' Cup. The runners-up were Inter Cardiff, who finished in the same position in the following season when Bangor City won the first of their back-to-back titles. Barry Town won the next four championship titles. They had returned from English football and owner Neil O'Halloran had made them the first league club to be full-time professionals.
Under the shrewd management of Gary Barnett they were virtually unbeatable in domestic football and their standard may be measured by their 1996 UEFA Cup success when they beat Dinaburg (Latvia)and Vasutas Budapest before falling 6-4 to Aberdeen, the second leg being played in front of 6,500 spectators at Jenner Park.
In season 1999/2000 their run of titles came to an end when Total Network Solutions (formerly Llansantffraid) won the title on the last weekend of the season. Barry's dominance was quickly reasserted and they were again crowned champions over the next three seasons (pictured left celebrating in 2002-03). By the beginning of 2003-04 Total Network Solutions had also taken up the option of fielding a team of full-timers, but at that very point in time the Barry club suffered almost fatal financial collapse and limped through the season without leaving the bottom place.
TNS unexpectedly found the championship being contested by Rhyl, and the denouement came at Rhyl on Easter Sunday when the home side won by a solitary goal in front of a league record crowd of 2,700.
In 2006/2007, the League secured a three year Sponsorship deal with the Principality Building Society and has subsequently been renamed, The Principality Building Society Welsh Premier Football League. In addition, the League Cup (presently sponsored by Loosemores Solicitors of Cardiff) has been competed for annually. Afan Lido won the first two competitions, and were followed by Llansantffraid and Connah's Quay. Barry completed their purple patch by winning four consecutive cup finals before Caersws and Rhyl (both twice) made their own mark on the competition before Carmarthen Town took the trophy for the first time in 2004/05 and TNS are the current holders after defeating Port Talbot in the 2005/06 season.
The League has shown signs of a maturing competition with the development of players who have entered the English professional leagues. The outstanding example is Mark Delaney (right), an established International player, who attracted attention with Carmarthen Town and made his way into the Welsh side via Cardiff and Aston Villa. More recently, former TNS stalwart and Welsh Premier League Player of the Year in 2004/05, Steve Evans (pictured below left) won his first cap against Liechtenstein at the Racecourse, just five months after graduating from the League to Wrexham, whilst Owain Tudur Jones joined Swansea City from Bangor City and progressed through to the Wales Under 21 and even the full squad in his first season in League 1. It is surely only a matter of time before he becomes the next Full Welsh International to have progressed from the Welsh Premier League. And, Leyton Orient 'keeper Glyn Garner played for Llanelli and Cwmbran Town in the Welsh Premier and he has since won a Full International cap after coming on as a substitute in the 2006 Friendly match against Trinidad and Tobago.
Following on from this trio, the charismatic Lee Trundle has progressed to Wrexham and then Swansea from Rhyl. And, perhaps more notable, Gary Lloyd (Barry), Paul Roberts (Porthmadog) and Eifion Williams (Caernarfon and Barry) won 'B' caps whilst playing in the league. At the beginning of season 2004/05 two young players (James Coates of TNS and Les Davies of Bangor) were selected for Wales Under 21 squad and they are proof positive of the key role which the Welsh Premier League plays in football in our Principality.
In the 2005/06 European competition, the League came of age with inspirational performances by the champions, Total Network Solutions, against the reigning European champions Liverpool. Their efforts and professionalism certainly opened many eyes to the quality of our national league. And if this was not enough superb performances by the two UEFA Cup entrants, Rhyl FC and Carmarthen Town, enabled them to reach the Second Qualifying Round - further proof of the progress made by the League in recent years.
And, the 2006/07 UEFA Cup has seen Llanelli progress through to the Second Qualifying Round after defeating Swedish outfit Gefle IF, 2-1 on aggregate. The 2007/08 European campaign was disappointing for the League as no clubs progressed through the First Qualifying stage, although TNS, Rhyl and Llanelli were all eliminated on Away Goals in the Champions League, UEFA Cup and Intertoto Cup respectively.
The late Alun Evans - Former Welsh Premier League Chairman
The 18 Welsh Premier League clubs met on April 13, 2008 and voted to support a restructuring proposal put forward by the Football Association of Wales, to introduce a Domestic Licence to the League.
It was proposed that the Welsh Premier League would be replaced by a First and Second Division with 10 teams in each Division for the 2010/11 season. A further proposal was accepted that the Football Association of Wales should take full control of the Welsh Premier League and the existing Company, 'Football League of Wales Limited' should be dissolved. These proposals were then forwarded to the Football Association of Wales for their consideration.
In June 2009 the clubs voted to accept an alternative proposal to reduce the premier League from 18 clubs to 12 for the 2010/11 season onwards with one single League.