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    North Derbyshire Radio

Local News

Get ready for Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne

todayFebruary 20, 2023 9

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The traditional Ashbourne Shrovetide Football match takes place on Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd February.

It’s the last bastion of mass football and is one of only a handful of games of its kind to be played annually in the streets of the UK. There are records of mass football being played as early as 1667, but Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide’s origins are unknown due to a devastating fire at the Royal Shrovetide Committee office in the 1890s, which destroyed the earliest records.

But we know the modern game follows a very similar format to how it would have looked centuries ago, with tradition at its core, and sportsmanship and rivalry at its beating heart. Every Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday the town is divided by the Henmore Brook. Traditionally, those born north of the river are Up’ards, and those born south of it are Down’ards.

These two sides lock horns on both days, with the game starting at 2pm when an invited local man is given the honour of “turning up” the ball from a plinth in Shaw Croft Car Park. Unlike a conventional football match, the game takes place over two eight-hour periods, the goals are nearly three miles apart at former mills and there are few rules. It’s better compared to rugby, with a huge, steaming hug at its centre, not unlike a rugby scrum.

While there are literally thousands of people crammed into the small market town during the two days, the number of players actually taking an active role in pushing the game towards their mill is perhaps in the hundreds, with a core of just dozens who were born into Shrovetide and have a chance at getting the ball to a goal.

There are players who specialise in water play, spending much of their time in the river, and players who are more suited to grappling away in the hug. And then there are the super-fit players who wait on the periphery all day, ready for a chance to run the ball away from the action, into the darkness and – hopefully – all the way to the goal.

Written by: NDR NEWS

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