Looking back through the years - 141 years of Rhyl Football Club

Last night Welsh Football was hit with the devastating news that 141 year old Rhyl Football Club, based at Belle Vue in North Wales was beginning the Winding-Up process after issues arising, complicated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst it would be unfair at this time to speculate the reasons behind this decision, it is one that the club’s directors felt would be the correct decision. The club was in need of a £175,000 investment to ensure payments where able to be made until the end of the 2020/21 campaign. Sadly, despite all of the efforts of everyone at the club and the wider community, a solution simply wasn’t able to be found. 

The club have had an illustrious history in their time and we now look back at a club that truly was the heart of its community and was certainly one of the most successful clubs the Welsh domestic game has seen.

Rhyl Football Club were formed on the 25th September 1878 following a meeting held at Rhyl Town Hall. They played at a field adjacent to Winter Gardens and took part in the 1878 Welsh Cup, losing 1-0 to Friars School Bangor in the first round. Twelve months later the club merged with Rhyl Grosvenor, one of many clubs in the town at the time. 

Throughout their early history they competed in many different leagues, they were founding members of the Welsh League formed in 1890 but withdrew the following season. In 1892 they then reformed as Rhyl Athletic and this time became founding members of the North Wales Coast League, winning the title in 1894/95. 

Years later the club joined the Cheshire County League in 1936 and so began one of the clubs most successful periods. Between 1947 and 1956 the club won the County League on 2 occasions and were runners up 4 times. They won the league again years later in 1971/72, taking their tally up to three. During that period starting in the later 40’s, they also won the Cheshire League Challenge Cup twice, the North Wales FA Challenge Cup six times and finally the Welsh Cup twice. Boasting a total of 12 honours in 9 seasons. At the end of this period Rhyl also reached the fourth round of the FA Cup, eventually losing out 3-0 to Bristol City after beating Scarborough, Bishop Auckland and current National League side Notts County on their way. 

In 1992 the club had the ambition to join the League of Wales but were placed into the Cymru Alliance after a late application was made. In the 1993/94 season they won their first of two second tier titles as we know it today, therefore being promoted to the League of Wales. For many years the club struggled in the top tier but following a takeover by former player Peter Parry, the club became known as it is today. 

In the 2003/04 season was arguably the best in the clubs history as they won their first Welsh Premier League title, reaching the Champions League qualifying rounds for the first time, eventually losing out 7-1 on aggregate to Latvian side Skonto Riga. That season they also won the Welsh Cup and League Cup. Although they lost 4-1 to Wrexham in the FAW Premier Cup final they finished with the 6-0 victory over Halkyn United in the North Wales Coast Challenge Cup to complete a famous quadruple. 

In the 2005/06 season the club recorded their first win in European competition, beating Lithuanian side FK Atlantas 2-1 at home before progressing on the away goal rule after a second leg defeat. This made them the first Welsh side since Barry Town in 1996/97 to reach the second qualifying phase. They lost that round 3-1 to Norwegian side Viking FK. 

Finally in 2008/09, Rhyl won the Welsh Premier League for a second time finishing clear of second place Llanelli. Rhyl started the following Champions League in the second qualifying round and faced questionably the biggest opponents in their history, FK Partizan. Known commonly as Partizan Belgrade. They lost 12-0 on aggregate. 

Since then the club has had a challenging time dropping back down to the second tier, only to become champions again and reinstating their WPL status. They finish this season sitting in 9th place at the time of writing, with 35 points from 25 games. 

Below are a full list of club honours:


Welsh Premier League: 2003/04, 2008/09

Cymru Alliance: 1993/94, 2012/13

Welsh Cup: 1951/52, 1952/53, 2003/04, 2005/06

Welsh League Cup: 2002/03, 2003/04

FAW Premier Cup: 2003/04

Cymru Alliance League Cup: 1992/93, 2011/12

North Wales FA Challenge Cup: 1927/28, 1929/30, 1933/34, 1934/35, 1938/39, 1947/48, 1949/50, 1950/51, 1951/52, 1953/54, 1954/55, 1969/70, 2003/04, 2005/06

Welsh Amateur Cup: 1972/73


Cheshire County League: 1947/48, 1950/51, 1971/72

Cheshire League Challenge Cup: 1948/49, 1951/52, 1970/71

Northern Premier League President’s Cup: 1984/85

To conclude this article we would like to wish everyone associated with the club all of the best going forward.

Daniel Hilton, moderator here at This is Welsh Football had this to say: ''On a personal note, as a spectator over the years when I’ve visited the ground and more recently on media duties it has been an absolute pleasure to be associated and share some memories with some wonderful people involved in making Rhyl FC what it was known for, being the hub of the community.''

Callum Howen, founder of This is Welsh Football: ''Not only is this a massive loss for Rhyl, but it is a loss for Welsh football as a whole. Rhyl FC were a leading club in the league for a long time and to see them go from Welsh Premier League champions and playing in Europe, to being relegated and ceasing to exist is awful. I've never had the chance to visit Belle Vue and now never will be able to which is really disappointing but now all we can do is hope that the supporters of Rhyl FC follow in the footsteps of Bangor 1876 and start up a new club and start climbing up the leagues so they can get back to where they are meant to be.''

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