Government officials will meet with football decision-makers over a controversial shake-up of the women's football pyramid, that will see some teams promoted and relegated regardless of their league position.

The news comes after Senedd members from every party in the Welsh Parliament condemned the plans. 

The Football Association for Wales (FAW) has admitted the restructuring was "not solely down to sporting merit" and also took into consideration "robust club structures".

The shake-up means three Welsh Premier Women's League sides – Abergavenny Women, Cascade YC Ladies and Briton Ferry Llansawel Ladies – have lost their places in the top division of Welsh club football, which is down from nine teams to eight for the 2021/22 season. Abergavenny Women finished fourth last season.

Other sides have been entered into the new tier system without securing promotion via their on-pitch results.

The move has prompted an outcry among the teams affected and in the wider women's football community, but the FAW's head of women's football, Lowri Roberts, said there would be no u-turn despite the controversy.

"We’re not reverting back or changing any decisions – the decision is final," she told The National last week. "What I hope we’ll be able to demonstrate over the coming months is the unbelievable work many of the clubs have put into their development plans, and the significant commitment and income they are able to bring in going forward."

READ MORE: FAW chief Roberts responds to restructure concerns

In the Senedd, Welsh Conservative member Laura Anne Jones said the "seismic change" announced by the FAW had left teams "disheartened and baffled".

The MS for the South Wales East region said there was a need for "investment and reforming" the women's game but "the administrative relegation process that has been used to try and achieve this aim is both questionable and unfair".

Jones condemned a "bewildering lack of weight given to sporting merit" and called on the government, which provides funding to the FAW, to demand clarity and that the sport's governing body "relook" at the plans.

Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell said the shake-up had been "heartbreaking" for the players, staff and fans of the "proud and successful teams".

The plans would also see Blackwood-based side Coed Duon Women FC drop into the third tier of the pyramid, the South Wales East MS told the Senedd before asking if the government would support an independent review of the FAW's shake-up.

"Surely how teams perform on the pitch should be crucial to a decision like this," Jewell told MSs. "And questions have also been raised about whether clubs' finances and whether they happen to have access to good infrastructure counted for more than what they've achieved.

"Moreover, each club's scores haven't been published, which raises questions about transparency."

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Cascade YC Ladies are based in Caerphilly, and the local constituency MS, Hefin David, said he had "grave concerns about the effect that [the FAW shake-up] will have on grassroots football".

The Welsh Labour MS said members of all parties were "absolutely united" in their opposition to the restructuring.

"At the very least, given the investment the Welsh Government has put into grass-roots sport, we deserve transparency, and that is what we are jointly calling for," he said, adding: And I think the Welsh Government is entirely entitled to ask for the Welsh FA to explain their thinking and reconsider."

The Senedd's Trefnydd (leader), Lesley Griffiths, said the shake-up was the responsibility of the FAW, rather than ministers, but said the deputy minister for sport, Dawn Bowden, "has asked her officials to meet with the FAW and to provide her with further information".

The deputy minister will then be asked to update the Senedd on those discussions, she added. Griffiths said the FAW's plans had caused "upset and distress" and had "brought a consensus across the chamber".

"Perhaps I could add that I would encourage clubs themselves to ensure that their concerns are raised with the FAW, because I think it's really important the FAW understand the way people feel about this," she told the Senedd.

Later, the three MSs who raised the matter in the chamber issued a joint statement alongside other members Peter Fox and Tom Giffard (Conservative), David Rees (Labour), Jane Dodds (Welsh Liberal Democrats); and Luke Fletcher, Peredur Owen Griffiths and Sioned Williams (Plaid Cymru) condemning the shake-up.

They said: “We support women's club football in Wales and the Wales women's national football team, as important elements of the Welsh sporting identity.

“We recognise the role that football clubs play in their respective local communities, from grassroots level upward.

“We are deeply concerned with the way in which the Football Association of Wales made and subsequently communicated its recent decision to restructure the Welsh Premier Women's League for the 2021/22 season.

“We believe that any such decisions should be based on sporting merit and made in a fair, open and transparent way with the reasoning made clear to clubs at the earliest opportunity.

“As such, we call on the FAW to ensure full transparency and to reverse their decision with regard to teams relegated from the WPWL.”

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