Here’s everything you need to know about the Shrovetide football match
The two-day game is a pre-Easter extravaganza with minimal rules, goals three miles apart, and hundreds of players.
Every year, on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, a game like no other kicks off in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
The Royal Shrovetide football match is a relatively lawless, rugby-football hybrid extravaganza, where hundreds of players try and get the ball to goals that are three miles apart.
Scoring involves jumping in the local river, and manslaughter is explicitly a no-no – this is the story of the Ashbourne Shrovetide football match.
How it works
The ball is made in the town and hand-painted to honour the dignitary.
Then hundreds of gathered people try and get the ball to their goal by pretty much any means necessary.
If a goal is scored before then, a new ball is released from the starting point again.
The ball can be kicked, but it rarely is. Usually it is carried or thrown between dozens of people trying to get their goal.
The goals themselves are three miles apart, and both are in the river that runs through Ashbourne, Henmore Brook.
Potential scorers have to jump in to hit the ball on their respective scoring post three times to score.
The ball can’t be hidden, driven anywhere, or enter cemeteries or churchyards.
And, reassuringly, manslaughter or killing people on purpose is not allowed either.
You’re an Up’Ard if you’re from north of Henmore Brook, or one of the Down’Ards if you were born south of it.
However, it would be pretty unusual for a non-local to score – that’s usually decided ahead of time by key local players as the ball makes its way to the goal.
It got its royal title after Edward VIII, who was then Prince of Wales, opened the game in 1928.
But more recently, the Prince of Wales threw the ball into the crowd to start 2003’s match.
They’ve since been demolished, and in the 90s purpose-built goals using some of the original millstones were erected in Henmore Brook.
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