Barry Town FC are a football team based in Barry. They dominated the League of Wales during the 1990s, but finished bottom in 2003-04 and were relegated to the Welsh Football League First Division. They play at Jenner Park, Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, where their ground accommodates 3,500 spectators (2,900 seated).
Barry Town AFC’s history dates back to 1892 when a club entitled Barry and Cadoxton District was formed in the area. During the early years, the club endured many upheavals, playing on five different grounds and variously being known as Barry Unionist Athletic, Barry United Athletic and Barry District.
In November 1912, the club reformed as Barry AFC (the 'Town' suffix was added in 1931), secured a lease on land owned by the Jenner family (now known as Jenner Park) and joined the Southern League.
The club retained membership of the Southern League for more than 60 years - their highest finishing place being fourth in the 1930s. During that time they enjoyed the a number of runs in the English FA Cup. In 1961/62, Barry drew Queens Park Rangers in the first round and held their illustrious opponents to a 1-1 draw at home, before losing the replay in London. In the 1984/85 season meanwhile they enjoyed more cup success before bowing out 2-1 to Reading in the first round proper, at a packed Jenner Park.
During its proud history, the club has had around 50 internationals on its books, including Bernd Berndtson of Sweden and Hannu Kankkonen of Finland in the late 1950s, while numerous others have left to pursue successful careers in the Football League. Among the most famous was local boy Derek Tapscott who signed for the mighty Arsenal in 1953 for £2,750, while Charlie Dyke made a name for himself with London neighbours Chelsea.
One of the club's most turbulent times occurred in 1992, when Barry Town were exiled for their decision not to join the newly- formed League of Wales (now Welsh Premier). As part of a group of rebel clubs known as the Irate Eight, they were forced into exile, going under the name Barri Dragons F.C. and sharing the ground of Worcester City across the English border. However, this period would be fleeting when the club owners the O'Halloran family announced a surprise u-turn and brought the club into the Welsh pyramid in the spring of 1993.
Their return would spark arguably the club's greatest period of success. In their first season back in Wales (1993-94), Barry earned immediate promotion to the top flight, while snaring a unique quadruple of Welsh League championship, the Welsh League Cup, another cup and the Welsh Cup for the first time since 1955. The latter was one of Barry's finest moments, as they upset English Second Division outfit Cardiff City in front of 16,000 spectators at the old National Stadium. Barry's reward for winning the Welsh Cup was a European Cup Winners Cup tie against FK Žalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania, but they crashed out 7-0 on aggregate. Greater glory was on the horizon.
After one season (1994/95) in the League of Wales, Barry opted to become the first fully professional club in the league and, thereafter, won their first league championship in 1995/96. The next year saw the Dragons create history as the first League of Wales club to progress beyond the opening round of a European competition. Following in Latvia over victory over FC Dinaburg, Barry ousted Hungarian side Budapest Vasutas in one of several epic European nights at Jenner Park. Despite trailing 3-1 from the away leg, Barry stormed to a victory in the return match by the same scoreline, and then won a penalty shoot-out 4-2. A 'Battle of Britain' with Scotland's Aberdeen was their reward and, after losing 3-1 at Pittodrie, the Welsh side rattled the Dons in a memorable 3-3 draw at a rainswept Jenner Park, to exit the cup gloriously.
On the domestic scene, Barry were all-conquering, clinching a first ever treble of League of Wales, League Cup and Welsh Cup. The championship was claimed with a record 105 points and a goal difference of more than +100. Then, from March 1997, the Dragons went 51 matches without tasting defeat in a league game, just one of many records they would set in the 90s.
1999 saw the Dragons become the first League of Wales outfit to win the FAW Premier Cup, with a 2-1 win over Wrexham at the club's own Racecourse ground. Pipped to the title in 2000 by the emerging TNS, Barry would regain their silverware the following campaign, while European battles with the likes of Dynamo Kiev and Boavista saw players of the highest calibre grace the Jenner Park surface.
In the 2000-01 season Barry became the first League of Wales team to win a European Champions League tie, when they defeated the Azerbaijan champions FC Shamkir both home and away. They went on to meet the Portuguese giants FC Porto, and although losing the leg in Portugal, Barry won the home leg 3-1. Porto would go on to win both the Champions League and the UEFA Cup in the following three seasons.
However, despite great success at home and abroad, the club struggled to attract support - even in their late 90s heyday, crowds would rarely surpass the 500-mark. With professional wages to pay, Barry were forced to cut cloth, and their fight to maintain a successful squad while staying financially healthy was eventually futile.
After the depature of chairperson Paula O' Halloran, 'football troubleshooter' Kevin Green came in as the new chief executive, yet his varying initiatives failed to stop the rot. Green brought in English international footballer and celebrity John Fashanu as the club's high-profile new chairman in the winter of 2002. Many saw Fashanu as the missing piece of the jigsaw, and the man who would sustain Barry's success into the future. Promising African and Chinese TV deals and an influx of Nigerian internationals, Fashanu made headlines, yet did little to steady the Barry ship, which looked to be in increasingly rough seas. Then, after a stint in ITV's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here saw him attain newfound popularity, Fashanu left the club, which by now was in a perilous financial state.
In the summer of 2003 the club went into administration with debts approaching £1 million. On 25 August 2003 the players and manager were locked out of Jenner Park (having been unpaid since early June). A new management was appointed together with an amateur team mostly drawn from N & M Construction of the South Wales Amateur League Division 2 (five levels below the Welsh Premier). Within a month, Barry Town had gone from winning in European to losing 8-0 at Caernarfon. The professional-era bubble had well and truly burst.
A difficult season followed, with Barry's first league win not coming until February 2004 when they beat fellow strugglers Welshpool Town 5-4 with a 98th-minute winning penalty from youngster Luke Sherbon. Experienced coach Colin Addison was brought in to steady the ship yet the club still ended up bottom of the division, 4 points clear of safety, and were relegated to the Welsh League Division One for the 2004-05 season. Addison was replaced as manager on the eve of the new campaign with assistant David Hughes, who himself had had a spell in charge the previous year. Meantime, an independent district valuer had determined that the club would have to pay an astonishing £42,000 rent and rates for that season and each subsequent season for the remainder of the lease. Judging the figure to be unfairly based on the club's relinquished professional status, the club decided they were unable to pay this amount and instead played out of Treforest FC's ground near Pontypridd from January 2005 to May 2006.
A second relegation in three years saw Barry Town drop to the third tier in Welsh domestic football - their lowest ever league status. A return to Jenner Park has been the basis for new youth developments and the creation of a reserve side. However, crowds are at a low, with many of the staunch supporters of yore exiled to breakaway side Barry FC - the result of a series of disputes with chairman Stuart Lovering. The first team meanwhile, under new manager Gavin Chesterfield, is seeking automatic promotion, with the hope that a winning run of form will see support return. While it has been a turbulent few years, there is still an underlying hope that the glory days will return to this former giant of Welsh football.