BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 11:11 GMT
Prince starts mass football game
Prince Charles
Prince Charles will throw the ball into a crowd of players
Prince Charles has agreed to begin a traditional annual game of football which has been going for more than 800 years.

The prince will "turn up" the ball at the start of Ashbourne's Shrovetide game - after he has been lifted on three men's shoulders.

He has agreed to return to the town after missing out last year because of the death of Princess Margaret and the year before because of foot-and-mouth restrictions.

It is tradition in the town that the Prince of Wales begins the football game which sees more than 60 players battling for goals over a three-mile pitch.

Songs sung

The Prince will meet the players and lunch with townsfolk before the "Shrovetide Anthem" is sung in praise of the game.

Auld Lang Syne and the National Anthem will also be sung before the game when the Prince will show off the hand-painted ball.

Balls used in the game are hand-painted by townsfolk
He will then "turn up" the ball - a local term for throwing the ball to the two teams.

The ancient custom of Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne dates back more than 800 years.

It has descended from the game of mediaeval mass football which only exists in a handful of places.

It is played between two sides - the "Up'ards", people born north of the River Henmore, and "Down'ards", people born south of the river.

Watery goal points

Following the "turning-up" of the ball, the game begins with the ball being kicked, thrown or "hugged" until a goal is scored by striking a goaling point marker three times with the ball.

Goaling points are about three miles apart on bridges close to the now-demolished mills which formed the original markers

A player needs to stand in at least two feet of water to score a goal.

There are few rules but murder and manslaughter are forbidden.

If a goal is scored before 1700 GMT, another ball is turned up and play continues until a second goal or until 2200 GMT.



Shrovetide shenanigans
24 Feb 98 |  Shrove Tuesday

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific