Halifax AFL drops a division

Happier times: Spring Hall's Ahsan Farooq receives the Invitation Cup from AFL President Michael Sheppard.
Happier times: Spring Hall's Ahsan Farooq receives the Invitation Cup from AFL President Michael Sheppard.

The Haslem Sheppard Halifax AFL will have only three divisions next season - and controversial club Spring Hall Celtic will not be taking part.

The Saturday league’s AGM took place at Arden Road Social Club, Halifax last night and 40 sides are bracing themselves for the kick off at the end of August.

That is the same number of teams as finished last season but defections during the campaign meant Division Two only had 10 teams and Division Three finished with only six.

League officials have decided that a Premier Division of 12 teams and two lower divisions of 14 will provide a better level of competition in 2014-2015.

Spring Hall Celtic, Wadsworth United and King Cross Warley Reserves have dropped out and new sides Illingworth St Mary’s, Northowram Reserves and AFC Crossley’s Reserves have joined.

League fixture secretary David Rattigan said it was the first time in recent history the league would only have three divisions.

That is a further indication of the declining number of participants in mainstream sports.

Spring Hall Celtic have had a short, successful and eventful few years in the Halifax AFL.

Promoted as runners-up from Division Three the season before last, the Savile Park-based side won the Invitation Cup in 2012-2013 and got further in the county competitions than any other AFL side in the most recent season.

They had a reputation for excellent football but also poor discipline and that came to a head following a top-of-table match against AFC Crossleys on February 8.

Crossleys won 5-4 and an incident after the game led to Celtic being suspended by the West Riding County FA from March 31 to May 31, meaning they had to concede the final three games of the season.

That cost them their chance of catching Crossleys in Division Two but they were still due to be promoted as runners-up.

However, with heavy fines hanging over the club, Rattigan said Spring Hall Celtic had decided not to apply for membership of the Halifax AFL again this season.

The demise of Division One side Wadsworth, mainly due to a lack of someone to run the club, had been confirmed several weeks ago.

The loss of King Cross’s reserves string is a disappointment. They finished a decent fourth in Division Two in spite of conceding their final two games of the season.

Illingworth will play on a 3G pitch in north Halifax while Northowram’s reserve string should provide the club with back up following the firsts’ promotion as Division One champions.

The re-emergence of a second Crossley’s side may be slightly controversial.

They had two teams a couple of seasons ago but withdrew their firsts from the Premier mid-way through the campaign while retaining a lower-division side which has been successful.

The reserve sides from Calder ‘76 and Midgley United are extra promoted sides in Division One as officials ensure no section has two teams from the same club.

A rise in referee’s match fees from £26 to £28 was approved and Wayne Cotton is the new referee appointments secretary, taking over from Mick Redmile.

How they are set to line-up - Premier Division: Ryburn United, Stump Cross, Greetland, Midgley United, Elland United, Calder ‘76. Copley United, King Cross Warley, Sowerby United, Hebden Royd Red Star, Northowram (P), Shelf United (P).

Division One: Sowerby Bridge (R), Holmfield (R), Denholme United, Salem, Elland Allstars, Ryburn United Res, Volunteers Arms, Stainland United, Greetland Res, Halifax Irish Centre, AFC Crossley (P), Mixenden Utd (P), Calder ‘76 Res (P), Midgley Utd Res (P).

Division Two: Sowerby Bridge Res (R), Denholme United Res, Hebden Royd RS Res, Shelf United Res, Sowerby United Res, Brighouse Sports, West Central, Shelf FC, Savile Arms, St Columbas, Salem Res, Illingworth St Mary’s, Northowram Res, AFC Crossleys Res.