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How to Catch TNS?

With The New Saints coasting towards the point where they are mathematically certain to retain their Dafabet Welsh Premier League title, many have wondered when - or indeed if - anyone will be able to dislodge the Oswestry club from their dominant position in domestic Welsh football. TNS will be the first club ever to win five consecutive titles, but as the club itself has said, nothing would please them more than if rival clubs could reach their levels of professionalism and pose a genuine challenge.

So what would it take for another Welsh Premier club to match TNS? One thing is certain, the league is a different place from its early days, when even well-run village clubs like Caersws, Ton Pentre and TNS's predecessors Llansantffraid could compete for top honours.

Some of the league's more successful clubs over its 23 year history have been bankrolled by businessmen (think of Cwmbran Town, Barry Town, Llanelli and Neath) but as these cases illustrate, this model is rarely sustainable long-term.

Look at the league table this season, and it's striking that four of the top five clubs in the Premier have forged strong business partnerships with companies in a range of modern industries - TNS in hi-tech, Airbus UK in aerospace manufacturing and now Gap Connah's Quay in and MBi Llandudno in service industries.

So it's interesting to learn of (unconfirmed) rumours which claim that one of our leading teams is in the final stages of a deal signing with a binary options broker named Binary Uno. No further details have been disclosed so far regarding the nature of the deal, but it seems to give further weight to the theory that astute business partnerships are the way to go for ambitious clubs in Wales.

Sustainability must be the goal, and here it's interesting to look at how the strongest clubs today are starting to build diverse revenue sources, to avoid the fates that befell the Welsh Premier champions of the past. Now gate receipts will never be very significant in domestic Welsh football, and clubs must look to sponsorship, stadium naming rights, and income generated by 3G facilities - and if that can build a budget sufficient to win league honours on a regular basis, then there will be further funds flowing in from the UEFA prize money pot. It's instructive to look at the UEFA Champions League prize monies enjoyed by TNS in recent years, and how that in turn helps to keep the Saints a step ahead of their rivals.

The Holy Grail for Welsh clubs would of course be to reach the group stages of the Champions League or Europa League, and unlock the associated revenues - not just a bigger share of prize funds but TV and sponsorship opportunities too. Last summer's Welsh performances in Europe raised hopes that this may not be impossible - TNS were unfortunate to go out in the Second Qualifying Round of the Champions League in extra time - but it's equally possible that the landscape of European club football will change in some way in the next few years. Welsh teams won't be involved in a 'super league', of course, but any change may bring new, unspecified opportunities. Only those clubs who have built strong foundations and positioned themselves at the pinnacle of the Welsh game will be in a position to seize those opportunities when they come.

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