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Welsh football in good voice

The Football Association of Wales was founded in Wrexham in February 1876 by a group of businessmen who wanted a representative team to play against Scotland.

Welsh football in good voice
Welsh football in good voice ©AFP/Getty Images

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) was founded in Wrexham in February 1876 by a group of businessmen who wanted a representative team to play against Scotland. They wished to emulate the matches between the Scots and the English that had begun four years before.

The game against Scotland eventually took place in Glasgow in March 1876. The Welsh side, comprising ten players with connections in north Wales and a solitary player from the south, lost 4-0. The return match the next year in Wrexham ended in a 2-0 defeat.

Football in Wales would be dominated by the north in the early years of the FAW, as clubs such as Wrexham AFC, Oswestry Town FC and Chirk AAA FC rose to prominence. In 1877/78 the Welsh Cup was introduced with the initial aim of finding players of international calibre. Wrexham were the competition's first winners and soon the tournament became a force in itself, though it was not until 1912 that a side from south Wales, Cardiff City FC, lifted the trophy.

The game finally started to take hold in south Wales in the 1890s, and in 1902 the Welsh Football League was formed. At the same time, however, many Welsh teams began to join the English leagues in search of a higher standard of opponent.

When football resumed after the First World War, then FAW secretary Ted Robbins tried to single-handedly revolutionise the way the sport was run in the country. The difficulties were immense as most top Welsh players were with English clubs and their release and availability for international matches never guaranteed. Nonetheless, Wales won the British Championship in 1907, with subsequent triumphs in 1920, 1924, 1928, 1933, 1934 and 1937.

Wales entered FIFA World Cup qualifying for the first time in the 1950s, and it was during this period that Herbert Powell, the FAW secretary, emerged as an influential figure with the fledgling UEFA organisation. However, the nation's sole success to date in reaching a World Cup final round came in Sweden in 1958, with the 1960s proving uneventful in comparison.

In 1976 Wales got to the quarter-finals of the UEFA European Championship under manager Mike Smith, and over the following years they developed into one of Europe's most improved sides, under first Mike England and then Terry Yorath. However, a second qualification for a major finals was to remain an elusive quest.

Some great Welsh players have performed with distinction on the world stage, including John Charles, who became an idol in Italy; Ian Rush, a feared goalscorer for Liverpool FC; Neville Southall, the Everton FC goalkeeper; and Ryan Giggs, who won the UEFA Champions League with Manchester United FC in 1999 and 2008.

Wales also came agonisingly close to qualifying for UEFA EURO 2004, losing to Russia in the play-offs, and with a new crop of talented youngsters emerging – foremost among them forward Gareth Bale, whose career has taken him to Real Madrid CF – the seeds were being sown for a promising future. 

In 2013 Wales successfully hosted the finals of the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship and this was followed in 2014 with the staging of the UEFA Super Cup in Cardiff. Having successfully hosted the Super Cup, the FAW were awarded the hosting of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Women’s Champions League finals in Cardiff in 2017.

This followed on from a wonderful year of achievement for the national team, who qualified for UEFA EURO 2016 – their first trip to a major tournament finals in 58 years – and enjoyed a magnificent run to the semi-finals, led by Bale and coach Chris Coleman, before going out to eventual champions Portugal.


Kieran O'Connor

Kieran O'Connor
Kieran O'Connor©FAW

Nationality: Welsh
Date of birth: 30 July 1954
Association president since: 2018

• Married with three children, Kieran O'Connor currently works as a corporate advisor offering support to growing companies across Wales. A qualified chartered secretary, he has built an extensive portfolio of experience in this industry and in governance over the last three decades.

• O’Connor began his involvement in football in 1970 as a qualified referee in the domestic game, and continued to officiate until 1986. His administrative skills were inherited by the Welsh Football League in 1985, when he was appointed treasurer, and he still holds these positions today.

• O’Connor has been a member of the Football Association of Wales (FAW) council since 1999. He was elected as FAW president in August 2018.


General secretary

Jonathan Ford

Jonathan Ford
Jonathan Ford©UEFA.com

Nationality: British
Date of birth: 9 June 1968
Association CEO since: 2010

• Jonathan Ford joined the Football Association of Wales (FAW) – the third oldest association in the world – as chief executive in 2009, succeeding general secretary David Collins. In 2010, the FAW launched a new strategic plan, designed to realign the association with its motto, Gorau chwarae cyd chwarae (best play team play) and to build successes at all levels.

• Ford has spent over 20 years working in and around sport, first in television working in the buying and selling, production and syndication of rights and programmes. Then, for the last ten years, he worked in senior management positions with global brand Coca-Cola, dealing with international business building programmes utilising sports properties including the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championships, to achieve business objectives.

• Football has been through a rapid transformation and modernisation programme over the last few years with many notable key successes, including the FAW hosting its first UEFA final tournament, the European Women's Under 19 Championship in 2013, and the UEFA Super Cup one year later in Cardiff.