A local football league has received a major boost in membership, the biggest for over two decades, writes Dave McLean.

The Beacon Sunday (afternoon) league will kick off their 2021/22 campaign on September 5 with a total of 43 teams split into four sections, including several newcomers from our circulation area.

In addition to two main open age divisions, the league will also operate with two over-30 groups of eight having attracted no fewer than 16 such teams, their largest response in this particular age category.

Not since the 1997/98 season, when a total of 46 teams contested the Beacon league action in four open age sections, have league numbers been above the 40 mark.

"We were virtually on our knees a few years ago, but now we are delighted to see this resurgence in local Sunday football," said Beacon league general secretary and founder member David Clinton.

Such a response to join the Beacon ranks for the new season comes just a few years after the league was only able to attract 16 teams and kicked off both the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons with just one division!

Now the league is all geared up for its big return with full fixtures in the Concentric Sales & Lettings Championship and Paycare Development Division. Opening games in the two Over-30 sections will start mid-September.

The draw has also been made for the league's flagship cup knockout, the Lester Charity Cup, including three first round ties, AFC Wulfrunians Vets v CTS United, Gunmakers Arms v Sedgley & Gornal United West, Sedgley Sporting v Old Oak Vets.

Round two: Emerald Athletic Vets v Sporting Black Country, Hagley United v Shere Punjab Wolves Seniors.

Down Syndrome Awareness Vets v AFC Bilbrook Vets, Sedgley White Lions v Wombourne Athletic, AFC Willenhall v Sedgley Sporting or Old Oak Vets, Springvale Albion Vets v Sedgley Rangers.

Gornal Rangers v Lane Head Titans, Dudley Rangers United v AFC Wulfrunians Vets or CTS United, Trysull Athletic v AFC Broadlands Vets, Blades FC v Codsall Station, AFC Sporting Gornal v AFC Bloxwich, Bushbury Hill v Sedgley & Gornal United East.

Gunmakers Arms or Sedgley & Gornal United West v Brandhall Colts, Widdas FC v AFC Goldthorne, Kewford Eagles Seniors West v FC Premier U21, Casuals Veterans v Netherton Tigers.

Opening fixtures for Sept 5: Lester Charity Cup R1, AFC Wulfrunians Vets v CTS United.

Concentric Sales & Lettings Championship, Blades FC v Sedgley Sporting, Codsall Station v Trysull Athletic, Dudley Rangers United v Widdas FC, FC Premier U21 v Gunmakers Arms.

Paycare Development Division, AFC Goldthorne v Sporting Black Country, AFC Sporting Gornal v Sedgley Rangers, Brandhall Colts v Hagley United, Bushbury Hill v Gornal Rangers, Sedgley & Gornal United East v Lane Head FC, Sedgley White Lions West v Kewford Eagles Seniors West, Wombourne Athletic v AFC Willenhall (all matches kick off 2.15pm).