THE Football Association of Wales are taking some positive steps to get Tier 2 underway sooner rather than later.

Their intention to apply for JD Cymru North and South clubs to be granted ‘elite athlete’ status by Sport Wales is a step in the right direction, of that there is little doubt. However, it has once again left some wondering if there will be any football played below this sort of standard anytime soon.

Despite friendly fixtures being permitted to resume following the ‘fire-break’ lockdown implemented by the Welsh Government, there is still no end in sight for their long-awaited confirmation on a return to a competitive setting.

This is something that has caused much frustration across the region and beyond, especially when you consider that lower leagues in England began their seasons some time ago. It is having a lasting impact on player and management interest that is in jeopardy of putting the long-term stability of the grassroots game in doubt and even if the season gets underway, it promises to look far different.

Having ‘elite athlete’ status comes with plenty of restrictions. Grounds need to be thoroughly inspected and COVID-19 safe, so whether the majority of clubs in Tier 3 and below can accommodate these restrictions from a financial standpoint is another matter entirely.

It’s a precarious situation that might already be at breaking point. The Ardal Northern League and North Wales Coast Football Association have already highlighted their intentions for shortened seasons and no cup competitions, so anything in the way of league activity at this juncture would be a massive bonus.

Football does so much for volunteers, supporters, coaches and players. It represents a fantastic release from day-to-day stresses and the wellbeing implications are something which cannot be overlooked for much longer.

The FAW have prioritised the top-flight, which is probably due to the finances involved, but the longer clubs lower down the pyramid are left in limbo, the more devastating the impact.

Tier 3 and 4 clubs worked exceptionally hard to get their grounds up to the required standard following criteria changes implemented by the FAW and simply put, their hard work should be rewarded.