By Tom Walker | Head of Sport
Barry Town United is a club enriched in football history dating back to the late 1800s. The days of yesteryear consisted of domination within the Welsh domestic scene, deep FA Cup runs and European travels.
In the 1980s, Barry left the then titled Southern League to focus on the Welsh League competition. This proved to be a fruitful decision as Barry won six Welsh League titles before the decade’s end.
The formation of the Welsh Premier League was where Barry were eventually able to cement their dominance in an era of success for the club. The club started in division one but earned immediate promotion and between the years 1994 to 2004 won seven league titles.
Their domestic success was rewarded with several European ventures in the preliminary Champions League stages.
The late 1990s saw battles against football legend Andriy Shevchenko and his Dynamo Kiev side, before eventually becoming the first League of Wales side to win a Champions League tie, beating Azerbaijan champions Shamkir to set up a tie with Portuguese giants Porto.
The tie unsurprisingly went in the favour of the European giants, but the 3-1 home victory over the Portuguese side remains a historic occasion in the Barry Town United archive.
Unfortunately for Barry, this period of fondness for the club was met by turmoil and financial crisis in the following years.
The continual challenge of securing enough prize money through domestic and European competitions would eventually catch up with the club. The lack of funds left them in a position of huge financial strain resulting in them entering administration in the summer of 2003. The future of the club was in complete turmoil.
Stuart Lovering bought the club in 2003 but continued to heap misery onto the side: slashing budgets, increasing ticket prices and not paying stadium rental charges; whilst the club were relegated to Welsh Division One.
After several more years of internal battling, Lovering’s attempt to withdraw Barry from the Welsh football league, which was backed by the FAW council, was the final straw. A High Court judge ruled that the FAW Council had acted unlawfully in denying them their licence to play Welsh league football and they were reinstated into the Welsh league pyramid.
In the years since, with Lovering out of the picture, Barry would go on to win two consecutive Welsh League titles and in April 2017, secured its return to the JD Welsh Premier League as Welsh League Division One champions under the management of long time servant Gavin Chesterfield.
2019-20 saw their 16 year European absence end, and to begin the 2020-21 campaign Barry faced NSÍ Runavík in the Europa League preliminary rounds to make it consecutive years in Europe. The tie did not go the Welsh side’s way, but it was still a remarkable achievement given their recent struggles.
The 2020-21 league campaign has been promising for Barry. They are currently placed fourth in the league, only losing two of their nine games so far. The league is currently on hold due to the Welsh lockdown.
The Barry Town United story has been a rollercoaster. From facing off against some of Europe’s best to near liquidation, and now back to domestic success, it has been an incredible journey for the club and one hopefully now set on the right path.