By Matthew Burgess
The New Saints look set to persist with their legal challenge to the Football Association of Wales despite their original appeal being rejected by the High Court.
Saints – who were challenging the FAW’s use of an unweighted points-per-game format to determine the Cymru Premier season – have confirmed they are now considering an appeal, which would add to the steep costs they have already committed to their cause, but underlines the determination of chairman Mike Harris.
The club missed out on the league title to rivals Connah’s Quay by virtue of that decision after the season had been curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A short statement from the club read:
“In light of today’s High Court ruling, The New Saints FC are extremely disappointed with the outcome and are considering an appeal, after Judge Mr Justice Marcus Smith dismissed The New Saints claim that the FAW curtailed the Cymru Premier prematurely, using an unweighted points per game method in place of a more traditional sporting merit outcome.”
Earlier, a statement from the FAW said that they had “welcomed” the High Court’s decision and that their decisions “were made in good faith and not based on the interests of any particular club, but the wider interests of the football community.”
Harris will need to act swiftly if he does plan to launch a second attempt.
The FAW have until Monday 3 August to inform UEFA of its club representatives for the 2020/21 season, with qualifying ties scheduled later that month.
Harris, whether in business or in football, has made success his trademark. Whether it’s multi-million-dollar contracts in North America, laying fibre optic cables, or establishing The New Saints as perennial champions in Wales, Harris is not used to losing. Success is his default setting.
In appointing Huw Simms QC – a senior barrister experienced with cases within the football industry – Harris firmly believes that the FAW have a case to answer, and with his club’s position in the Champions League and pride on the line, Harris seems determined to fight this all the way.
If it is feasible for The New Saints to launch an appeal and have the hearing held within the FAW’s three-week timeframe, then I fully expect Harris to do so – even if it does bring unwanted attention to his team and cloud their European qualification preparations in uncertainty.
One suspects that any continued wrangling would be met with dismay over in Deeside at champions Connah’s Quay, and for the domestic football fan it would further tarnish a thrilling domestic campaign that was never allowed to play out to its potential.
For Harris himself, you wonder whether his enthusiasm and passion for the The New Saints, and for the Welsh game, could wane should it leave such a bad taste.