Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 12:28 UK

Conkers get safety group backing

Competitors at last year's World Conker Championship
People from around the world take part in the conker contest

The World Conker Championships has found a possibly unlikely sponsor - a health and safety organisation.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health is backing the event in a bid to lose its spoilsport image.

The event, held annually in Ashton, Northamptonshire, has been organised by the village's conker club since 1965.

About 500 entrants from Jamaica, the US, Brazil, the Philippines, Benin and mainland Europe are among those due to compete to be crowned conker champion.

The health and safety organisation is keen to dispel the image of being spoilsports and is even entering a team in the event, held on 12 October.

'Goggles myth'

It says the suggestion they asked children to wear goggles when playing conkers was a myth.

IOSH president Ray Hurst said: "We do not, and never have, required children to wear goggles to play conkers."

He said people who made such decisions had a limited knowledge of health and safety.

"Health and safety doesn't require goggles at conker matches, and it doesn't ban goggles from swimming pools," he added.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website says a headteacher suggested children should wear goggles to play conkers and other schools then banned the game on health and safety grounds.

The HSE said the safety risk from playing conkers was "incredibly low and not worth bothering about".

Mr Hurst added: "I'm looking forward to captaining my team to glory at the championships to show that health and safety people are not spoilsports.

"We like to have fun like anyone else. You just have to manage the risks, not ban them into oblivion."

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