By James Williams
The Football Association of Wales has accused the BBC of accessing an “unpublished page” on their website in the ongoing row over the ending of the domestic football season.
In an extraordinary email sent out to clubs in the Cymru Premier, FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford has claimed staff at BBC Wales took information from web pages that “were not available to the public.”
The accusation – in a letter obtained by Dai Sport – is delivered along with an apology to the clubs for the fact that BBC Wales reported the decision before the clubs themselves had been informed.
The FAW took the decision on Tuesday to end the current campaign for safety and cost reasons and declared Connah’s Quay Nomads as champions for the first time under an unweighted points-per-game method.
But there was confusion and uncertainly when BBC Wales broadcast the news, even though there was no official confirmation from the FAW to either the clubs themselves or any other media.
The email from Ford seeks to provide an explanation for what went wrong and suggests that the BBC took advantage of a “security flaw” although it does not use the phrase “hacking” and refers to the BBC as “a media outlet.”
It claims the statement was unfinished and still being prepared when the media outlet accessed and published information that was not in the public domain.
— JD Cymru Leagues (@CymruLeagues) May 20, 2020
It is understood that the accusation has astonished staff at BBC Wales who firmly reject the idea that any pages were viewed that were not visible to everyone.
Their contention is that the FAW published the information, became aware it had been published in error, and then removed it.
The letter from Ford contained in the email states: “I wanted to contact you to ensure that our valued stakeholders received a direct apology and an explanation for the communication of yesterday’s announcement.
“As you will know, the announcement appeared on a media outlet prior to you receiving official communication from the FAW.
“I would like to assure you that it was never the FAW’s intention for a media outlet to receive the information detailing the curtailment of the league prior to Shareholders, Clubs, Leagues and Areas receiving the details first.
“Prior to the confirmation of the FAW Board’s decision, a communication timeline had been constructed with the intention to ensure that you, our key stakeholder, were informed of the decision first.
“Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that whilst the web page was being built and edited in preparation for publication of the announcement, our investigation has confirmed that a security flaw allowed access to the unpublished page.
“A media outlet accessed this part of the site, not available to the public, and reported on the content of this unpublished and unfinished article, prior to the FAW notifying the Shareholders, Leagues Clubs and Areas of the FAW Board’s decision.
“The FAW has been in detailed discussion with our web developer this morning to identify the issue and subsequently, the security flaw has been corrected and additional levels of security added to prevent this from happening again with sensitive announcements.
“On behalf of the FAW, I would like to reiterate our apologies and disappointment in the manner in which the news of this announcement was communicated.
“We are in very uncertain times and the decision by the Board was certainly unprecedented. The FAW recognises the difficulties and uncertainties faced by not just those involved in football, but everyone currently.”
Nomads manager Andy Morrison spoke of the ‘surreal’ experience as he discovered his team were champions while media outlets covering Welsh football expressed their disappointment in how the news had emerged.
“My daughter texted me to tell me I’d won the league which was a surreal in a way, but that happens in the modern day,” Morrison said in an official club interview.