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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 09:07 GMT
Town succumbs to ball game fever
People taking part in the Atherstone Ball Game
The winner gets to keep the ball
A traditional Shrove Tuesday game has rumbled its way through the streets of a Warwickshire town.

The Atherstone Ball Game is not for the faint-hearted, with hundreds of men battling each other for possession of the 4lb (1.81kg) leather ball.

The last person holding it after two hours is declared the winner.

The game, which is taking place for the 806th time, is so vigorous that local shopkeepers have to board up their windows to stop them getting smashed.

The ball may be thrown, carried or kicked, and a series of scrummages can take place as the game progresses.

We always have injuries; it's part and parcel of the game
Organiser Howard "H" Taft

After two hours a klaxon is sounded, and the stewards search the pile of bodies to find out who is clutching the ball.

The brave winner gets to keep the ball, which one of the game's organiser Howard "H" Taft said was patented and specially made each year.

Mr Taft told BBC News: "We always have injuries; it's part and parcel of the game - bloody noses, cuts and bruises, black eyes, that kind of thing.

"We've never had any serious injuries though, as far as I know."

The game has the backing of Warwickshire Police and an ambulance crew was on standby to deal with any casualties.

This year's event was for charity for the first time, with the money raised going to the Tsunami Appeal.

The game began with the ball being thrown from an upstairs window of Barclays Bank.

Shrovetide shenanigans
24 Feb 98 |  Shrove Tuesday



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