FOOTBALL fanatic and acclaimed photographer Gary McLaughlin was among the winners at the 2019 sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards.

The Maybole man and former Ayrshire Weekly Press chief photographer, has driven walking football to massive growth in the last few years as chairman of Walking Football Scotland (WFS) and he picked up the Local Hero award at the ceremony last week.

From its birth in 2012, walking football, through the efforts of Gary and WFS, now offers activities across Scotland with 97 member groups, 135 sessions weekly attracting over 3,000 participants.

For the last three years, father-of-two Gary has travelled extensively across Scotland, at his own expense, offering support and advice on creating walking football programmes and has become a local hero in many communities.

The former Ayr United player and referee has helped to raise the profile and participation in walking football amongst an older, difficult to reach group of adults.

In a recent survey conducted by WFS over 80 per cent of participants showed significant improvements in general fitness, weight loss, mental health and increased friendships.

A star-studded guest list gathered in Glasgow last Thursday to celebrate another exceptional year for Scottish sport.

Josh Taylor became a unified world champion, Laura Muir continues to excel on the track and Andy Robertson reached the pinnacle of European football with Liverpool.

Who could forget Catriona Matthew leading Team Europe to Solheim Cup glory at Gleneagles or Scotland’s first appearance at the Women’s World Cup in France.

The Scottish Sports Awards is also a night to honour those who give tirelessly in communities across the country to afford others the opportunity to take part in sport.

Attendances at the national Active Schools programme are at 7.3million – an all-time high.