Junior football merger with Ayrshire clubs is ratified to create four leagues of 16

Thorniewood United are pictured playing Ayrshire District League outfit Darvel in a third round West of Scotland Cup tie in April. The imminent merger of the West and Ayrshire regions means there is a greater likelihood of the teams facing each other on league duty.
Thorniewood United are pictured playing Ayrshire District League outfit Darvel in a third round West of Scotland Cup tie in April. The imminent merger of the West and Ayrshire regions means there is a greater likelihood of the teams facing each other on league duty.

An ambitious overhaul of junior football will see the 52 West Region sides amalgamated with their 12 Ayrshire League counterparts.

The reconstruction plan will see the existing Super Premier, Super First, Central First, Central Second and Ayrshire District Leagues merged into four leagues of 16 for the start of season 2018-2019.

The idea – which 49 of 61 junior clubs voted for at a Hampden Park AGM on June 28 – is the brainchild of Ayrshire District League outfit Whitletts Victoria.

Whitletts chairman/secretary John Dalton said: “We are delighted that this proposal has gone through.

“The overwhelming support this has received shows what a powerful force clubs can be when they work together. We have a fantastic product in junior football.

“It is great entertainment at a low cost. You can enjoy a pie, a programme and even a wee drink at some of the grounds.”

The changes will affect our two local junior clubs, Thorniewood United and Bellshill Athletic.

Thorniewood currently play in the West third tier – McBookie.com Central Division 1 – while Bellshill will begin the new league season next month in McBookie.com Central Division 2 after a second straight relegation.

But there are major hopes among the vast majority of West Region clubs that the new look set-up will help them significantly going forward.

Foreseen benefits of the restructuring include clubs receiving greater gate receipts due to an increased number of home fixtures, plus a fixture scheduling improvement which will see an initial pre-season list showing games all the way through until the end of the calendar year with a second fixture list then published from New Year to the end of the season.

It is also hoped that better structuring of the fixture schedule will help avoid a scenario like one in the season just finished which saw Thorniewood having to play numerous games in the final weeks after a series of weather-related postponements.

The imminent changes mean that the 2017-2018 season will be the last for the Ayrshire District League with three clubs being promoted into the new second tier division, the Championship.

There will also be a play-off opportunity for the fourth placed club to be promoted against one of the bottom two clubs in the current Super League First Division.

ADL clubs finishing fourth (If unsuccessful via the play-offs) and seventh will play in the new third tier, League One, with the bottom four clubs playing at the bottom level, League Two.