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Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009
Ashbourne Shrovetide Football - the Rules

Shrovetide Football
There are no rules in Ashbourne Shrovetide Football preventing play spilling into the Henmore - and it frequently does!

Many local traders have become wise to the 'hazards' of Shrovetide Football over the years and these days Ashbourne town centre is boarded up for the occasion.

This helps protect property from a surging 'hug' and protects the players from the possibility of broken glass.

The main rules of the game are:

  • Keep the ball out of churchyards, the cemetery and the Memorial Gardens
  • Do not trespass on other people's property
  • You must not intentionally cause harm to others
  • The ball must not be hidden in bags or rucksacks
  • The ball must not be transported in, or on, motorised vehicles

One of the earliest rules, from ancient times, states that players must not murder their opponents!

The players are divided into two teams, the Up'ards (those born north of the River Henmore) and the Down'ards, but in reality anyone can join in the fun.

Boarded-up shops in Ashbourne
Much of Ashbourne is boarded-up to protect both property and players

There are two 'goal posts' - one at Sturston Mill, the other at Clifton Mill, a distance of three miles apart. The Up'ards have to score at Sturston, the Down'ards at Clifton.

The ball is hardly ever kicked, but mostly hugged by a scrum which tries to move forward as each team pushes towards its own goal post.

A ball is goaled by tapping it three times against the mill wheel which forms part of the goal plinth.

If the ball is goaled before 5pm, a new ball is turned up at Shaw Croft, and the scorer is allowed to keep the ball. If it is scored after 5pm, play ends for that day.

There games on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Play has to finish by 10pm each day.


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