WELSH football’s top league say they are “disappointed” with the Welsh Government’s decision not to include them on the list of pilot events testing the safe return of fans to stadiums.

Play-off games featuring Swansea City and Newport County, Wales’ friendly with Albania and Glamorgan’s match against Lancashire will all see supporters returning in limited numbers.

The were part of the government’s nine-strong list, which also includes the Muslim Eid-al-Fitr festival and Welsh-language Tafwyl festival, announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford on Tuesday.

However, despite applying to be included among the events, the JD Cymru Premier’s remaining fixtures will continue to be played behind closed doors.

READ MORE:

The final round of regular season matches takes place this Saturday with an exciting finish to the title race in prospect, as Connah’s Quay Nomads look to secure back-to-back championships.

They go to Penybont knowing a win will guarantee them the title, but any slip could let in The New Saints, who host Bala Town at Park Hall.

Following this weekend’s matches there are three play-off games to decide which of Penybont, Barry Town United, Caernarfon Town and Newtown will play in next season’s Europa League.

Gwyn Derfel, the league’s general manager, said: “I’m glad for Swansea City and Newport County that they have been included in the test events and given permission by the Welsh Government to welcome back a limited number of supporters.

“But we are disappointed that a devolved government has not supported our numerous requests to be included in the test events for supporters to be allowed to return to games in this country’s national league.

“We have made regular applications to be considered because we were confident that we could provide a safe environment for supporters to return.

“We still don’t understand how the Welsh Government seems to be prioritising clubs in the English league system over Wales’ national league.”

Andrew Howard, the Football Association of Wales' head of competitions, backed up Derfel's comments.

He added: "We're disappointed [the Cymru Premier] is not included.

"Because we are ready and a trusted partner of the Welsh Government, and all our clubs have worked tirelessly on the return to play in the Cymru Premier league.

"They deserve that opportunity and the fans of Cymru Premier clubs deserve the opportunity to support their clubs in our forthcoming play-offs. They are huge games for those clubs and their communities.

"We were informed that there were only a group of nine events and only one of those would be a footballing event, which was the international at Cardiff City Stadium against Albania which will be a large stadium event.

"We're obviously disappointed that we were turned down at that stage and then to find out that the devolved Welsh Government has included two English football fixtures, albeit hosted in Wales, is another kick in the teeth to the domestic game in Wales."

He continued: "We're obviously pleased to see spectators return to sporting events throughout Wales.

"This is a positive step forward, which we welcome and we wish all those events and organisers the very best of luck in the coming days and weeks.

"It's in all of our interests that those test events go well because it will open the door to all the events coming back shortly afterwards, which we all want.

"We are bitterly disappointed that the Cymru Premier league has not been selected as one of those events because we've been in discussions since late August regarding test events.

"It looked like in September that we were going to run one of the first test events for spectators until we had an increase in transmission rates."

Meanwhile, Wrexham boss Dean Keates, whose team were also not chosen for any of the test events, said: "There's no doubt about it, be it having 50 people there or 500 people there, it does make a difference.

"When there's no atmosphere and no people shouting, does that influence the referee's decision and what he does in that split second? Yes, I believe so.

"It will be at a detriment to us if we go into games and the opposition have got fans in there.

"When you see things start to move, the wheels start to turn and a little more freedom for the whole country we hopes something might fall in our favour.

"You've seen what's happening down in south Wales and hoped maybe they could possibly use ourselves as well.

"As I believe we're still chatting with the Welsh Government so hopefully something may be able to give."

Several politicians have commented on the geographical make-up of the nine test events, with the furthest north being at the Theatre Brycheiniog in Brecon.

New Plaid Cymru Senedd member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Mabon ap Gwynfor, said: "Venues have struggled through the pandemic in all parts of the country and it is deeply regrettable that the pilot plan is ignoring the many suitable locations we have here across the region.

"If the government is serious about making sure that the north is not left behind its actions after the election must match its warm words before it."

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies added: "It's pleasing to see spectator trials given the green light, but ministers should correct the one glaring error in the plan and ensure there are pilots in north Wales, not just concentrated in the south."

In response, a Welsh government spokesman said: “The selection of events to be included in the proposed pilot programme was made on the basis of discussion with venues, local authorities and event organisers, seeking spread across types of event and locations across Wales.

“Managing a safe and successful test events programme will hopefully allow larger gatherings back to stadia, theatres and other venues in Wales.

“We will provide more clarity for the events sector on Friday when we confirm the latest changes as part of the 21-day review process.”