Ray Hughes, the co-founder of Aberystwyth Town Ladies, talks to us about his time with the club and his future hopes for the league.
O: What is your role and how long have you been with the club?
R: I co-founded Aberystwyth Town Ladies/Girls FC back in approximately 2004. I have been the Manager since the team initially started, except for two years (2013-2015) when I stepped down. I returned to co-manage the team again in 2015. At the start of this season, I stepped down to become an Assistant Manager.
O: How do you think women’s football was perceived when you first got involved in women’s football?
R: The main reason I initially got involved with women’s football was because my daughter was playing football in the local junior football league for her primary school. Also, during the summer months, I used to enter girls football teams in the ‘Ian Rush Football Tournament’ in Aberystwyth, and a Girls Football Tournament in Brecon.
When our Women’s team first started, we played in the Ceredigion Ladies Football League back in 2005. There were 8 to 9 teams playing in the Ceredigion Ladies Football League then, and there was a lot of interest shown. Today, there are only 5 teams within the Ceredigion Ladies Football League. Our area association is Central Wales FA and over ten years ago, there were approximately 20 women’s football teams affiliated to the Central Wales FA; today, there is only 7.
Yes, there are more women playing football in Wales today, especially in the South and North of the country, but not so many are playing in Mid Wales.
We are part of Aberystwyth Town FC but it has been a continuous and persistent battle to be accepted into a male dominant sport.
O: Do you think perceptions have changed?
R: Women’s football within Wales is being more recognized and accepted; there are many more women and girls playing football, and the number of teams are increasing but, as I mentioned earlier, the number of women’s teams has not increased within Mid Wales.
There are many new 3G football pitches that have been built within North and South Wales in the last few years, but there is only two recognized 3G pitches in Mid Wales - Aberystwyth and Newtown.
Do I think perceptions have changed? Yes in the North, and especially in the South, but not in Mid Wales.
O: What has been your most standout memory with the club?
R: There are several standout memories:
- The first one was winning the Central Wales FA Cup in our third season as a Senior Women’s team. We have since won this cup on six other occasions.
- The second standout memory was the first-ever Women’s Welsh Premier League game being played at Park Avenue, Aberystwyth Town FC on Friday 24th September 2009. The game was between Aberystwyth Town Ladies FC and Llanidloes Town Ladies FC; the game was played in front of a crowd of just under 400. The final score was Aberystwyth Town Ladies FC - 2, Llanidloes Town Ladies FC - 0. The first-ever player to score in the Women’s Welsh Premier League was Sam Gaunt. The second player ever to score was Leanne Bray. The first player ever to be shown a Yellow card was my daughter Lucy Hughes (Walker). I mentioned this in my “Fathers speech” during her wedding!
- Reaching the FAW Women’s Cup Semi-final in 2012 but losing to Caernarvon.
- Beating Swansea City Ladies in a Women’s Welsh Premier League game at home.
O: What are your hopes for the future of the WPWL league?
R: During the fourth season of the WPWL, I made a strong statement to the WPWL Secretary that within the next 5 to 10 years, the WPWL will be totally dominated by teams from South Wales. This season, there are only 8 teams in the league - 7 coming from South Wales, and just 1 from Mid Wales (Aberystwyth Town Ladies FC). My hopes are to see a more balanced location of the teams within the league and for more help and support to develop girls and women’s football within Mid Wales.
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