By Ashley Cox

BARRY Town have secured a place in next season's UEFA Europa League, after FAW bosses opted to curtail the 2019-20 JD Cymru Premier campaign.

The Jenner Park outfit, who have been out of action since a 2-2 draw at TNS on Friday, March 6, were rubber-stamped as European entrants on Tuesday, finishing the abandoned campaign in fourth, with 42 points from their 25 completed fixtures.

A PPG ('Points Per Game') method was applied to the division's outstanding matches, with Connah's Quay Nomads subsequently toppling The New Saints to claim their first national championship.

As a result, the Deesiders take Wales' solitary spot in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers, with TNS and third-placed Bala entered into the Europa League qualifying rounds.

With the identities of Wales' European representatives required before a crunch UEFA meeting next week, the decision was made to nominate the Cymru Premier's top four teams en masse, abandoning the idea of a European place for the winners of the JD Welsh Cup.

With the Welsh Cup left in limbo at its semi-final stage, Barry have taken this spot and will theoretically now enter the Europa League at its preliminary round.

However, their enthusiastic supporters will hardly be rushing for their passports, as a dearth of COVID-19 uncertainty continues to cloud any preparations for cross-continental football in 2020.

With Europe's club competitions typically kicking off each June, it appears wildly optimistic to imagine Barry's experience will reflect last season's, when the club ended its 16-year absence with a two-legged tie against Belfast's Cliftonville.

Hundreds of Barry supporters crossed the Irish Sea in 2019, but any fresh European action this year might end up contested behind closed doors, or even staged at a neutral venue as a one-off affair, should one theory circulating bear credibility.

It has likewise been suggested that some games in the early stages of UEFA's tournaments may not happen at all, with the qualifying clubs from each nation financially compensated instead.

In a statement posted on Tuesday afternoon, the club asserted "the safety of players and fans has always been our first concern", stressing its support for the decision to bring the campaign to a premature conclusion.

"The FAW has taken the same approach as countries such as the Netherlands, Cyprus and Luxembourg in nominating clubs for Europe based upon their position in the league", it continued, before backing the approach as "the best indicator of sporting merit over the course of a season".

"With this season formally over, we will start our preparation for the new season in the hope that we will be able to defeat the virus and play competitive football, once it is safe to do so".

As across the sport at large, safety remains a paramount concern, with the FAW's statement reiterating this stance.

The governing body revealed its decision was "taken as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in accordance with Welsh Government’s lockdown guidelines and measures".

"The FAW Board took into consideration the health and safety of all those involved with these leagues.

"Furthermore, the FAW Board also considered the specific economic and financial impact of attempting to finish the season during the pandemic and therefore felt it was imperative not to risk the long-term financial stability of the leagues and their clubs".

"It was also recognised that the JD Cymru Premier could not be concluded prior to the deadline set by UEFA for European competition entry".

Peaking with a 1-0 victory over TNS at Park Hall in September, Barry's 2019-20 league season saw them rack up 12 wins and six draws; results that ensured what turned out to be a decisive four-point gap between them and fifth-placed Caernarfon Town.

Falling at the first hurdles in both the Welsh Cup and Nathaniel MG Cup, Barry's Cymru Premier points have been turned into prizes, but it remains to be seen if, when and how Gavin Chesterfield's team will get their second straight bite at the European cherry.