Far from the beautiful game, village Shrove Tuesday football matches more resemble a frenzied mob. The tradition of Shrove Tuesday football games in England date back to the time of Henry II of the 12th century. Though there may be evidence of games played as early as 600AD.
There are no set teams or pitch to play on. The village green is usually the focal point of the game but it isn’t long before the match spills into the village streets, across streams and over common land. The match begins when the ball is tossed into the crowd, which some sources believe was the head of an executed criminal in days gone by. It’s also said that two local areas, of what is now the city of Derby, undertook a game and hence coining the term a local derby. Indeed, the town of Ashboune, some 13 miles distant from Derby still conducts The Royal Shrovetide Football Match over Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.
Though played up and down the country the game is basically that of a mob scrum. Hundreds take part in each game and the goals can be set any distance apart, often being in two different villages. The rules are quite basic, it is a breech of the rules to: commit murder or manslaughter, carry the ball in a vehicle, bag or coat. Other than those rules the ball may be moved by any method including kicking, punching, throwing and carrying unaided. The end of the game is at a predetermined time, often after dark. Due to the numbers involved and distance between the goals it is rare to see a game with more and a couple of goals scored.
The local pub is often involved to a degree where the victors can celebrate and losers commiserate, but all can eat, drink, warm through and dry out!